MALTA – Mike Isom, a volunteer Malta firefighter who escaped his burning home with his family in the middle of the night Oct. 17, had advice for families who might face the same tragedy.
“Have people sleep with their bedroom doors closed,” Isom said as he looked into what’s left inside his son’s room – a mostly untouched white sheet with shark designs on it that lay on top of a mostly untouched mattress. “It is amazing how much time it will buy if something like this happens.”
Isom, along with his wife, Jill, and son, Mason, lost their lab-mix, Stella, when the fire spread throughout and turned their home in the 500 block of East Jefferson Street into a pile of rubble.
“Our smoke and carbon monoxide detector went off,” Jill Isom said. “Our bloodhound (Earl) jumped on Mike’s face to wake us up. The smoke was as low as Mike’s hip.”
She said smoke starts from the top and works its way down.
“When we got out of the house, it was fully engulfed with fire,” Jill said.
She called Earl a hero.
The Malta Fire Protection District had assistance from fire departments in DeKalb, Creston, Shabbona, Kirkland, as well as Genoa EMS, and fought the flames for about two hours, officials said.
Friends near and far have helped the family start rebuilding. Their “besties,” as Jill referred to Donna Libby-Frederick and Tanya Libby and the couple’s son, Ian, 8, welcomed the Isoms to stay at their home for as long as it takes to rebuild.
“It’s been amazing,” Jill Isom said. “It’s a dream come true. I think everyone needs best friends like Donna and Tanya.”
The first priority is to keep the Isoms safe and secure while they rebuild their home.
“We have a lot of room and it just worked out, thank God,” Donna said. “They are an amazing family and we just needed to help.”
She said she and Tanya are just trying to make a clean start for the Isoms.
“We’re really focused on the rebuild,” Donna said.
Donna and Tanya aren’t the only people who are helping the Isoms get back on their feet.
Joe Ciske, a firefighter with the Park Ridge Fire Department where Mike works, started a GoFundMe page hours after the fire destroyed the Isoms’ home. As of Thursday afternoon, it had raised more than $23,000 for the Isoms.
The family will need that money to rebuild.
“There’s total destruction,” Mike Isom said as he pointed to the rubble outside of Mason’s room and then to the room itself.
There were shards of glass, pieces of wood and burned door frames scattered throughout what’s left standing of the structure. Although partial outside walls still stand, not much else does.
“I’m kind of sad and angry because it was my house,” Mason, 11, said.
Mason said he likes living with Ian and his family.
“It’s been amazing,” he said before he asked Ian to grab a Nerf gun.
Jill said she and her family are grateful to their community and their firehouse for the support they’ve given the Isoms.
She said she knew about the GoFundMe page but hadn’t peeked at it.
“Wow,” she said when she found out how much had been raised to help her family rebuild.
“We’re very thankful to be out,” she said. “I’m just glad we’re alive.”