Firefighter Dies During Interior Attack of Commercial Building Fire in Christopher, Illinois Near Carbondale

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Kody Vanfossan was fatally injured after entering a burning two-story vacant building — a former furniture store at 118 West Market Street in Christopher, about 18 miles northeast of Carbondale, Illinois.

Kody Vanfossan, age 24, passed away at about 3:30 a.m. Sunday, May 5, 2019 while fighting a commercial structure fire in Christopher. An eight-year veteran of the fire department, he’s the first firefighter to die in the line of duty in the modern history of the Christopher Fire Department.

Vanfossan and another firefighter were assigned an interior attack on the fire in a vacant commercial building. A third firefighter called for the two firefighters to exit the building. As the two firefighters were evacuating the building down steps in the rear of the building, the steps collapsed. While the other firefighter was able to escape, Vanfossan did not escape. A Mayday was issued for Vanfossan, who was later recovered from the building and transferred to an ambulance. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

At the National Fallen Firefighters’ Memorial in Emmitsburg, Maryland, flags are flying at half staff in Vanfossan’s honor. A local memorial by the Christopher Fire Department has not been scheduled yet. “We will see to it that he is honored and remembered,” said Fire Chief Ron Learned.

The details of Vanfossan’s death are under investigation by the Illinois State Fire Marshal, according to Franklin County Coroner Marty P. Leffler.

Vanfossan comes from a family with a deep tradition of public service. His dad, Brent Vanfossan, is a captain on the Christopher force, who has been a firefighter in Southern Illinois for about 27 years, Learned said.

Kody’s grandfather, Gary Bartolotti, is Christopher’s mayor and was a firefighter at the Valier Fire Department.

The Southern Illinoisan | ‘A fallen brother’: Christopher mourns loss of firefighter Kody Vanfossan



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