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Family loses nearly all possessions in house fire

Friends and neighbors have rallied around a rural Oregon family in the aftermath of a fire that destroyed their home last week.

A fast-moving fire swept through the home of retired Ogle County Deputy Al Koper, his daughter Tanya Koper-Bowers, and her two teenage daughters at 2589 W. Oregon Trail Rd. on July 16, destroying the building and its contents, including Al’s pick-up truck which was parked in the attached garage.

With the help of friends, the family sorted through the charred remains of their possessions late last week to find anything that might be salvageable.

Koper-Bowers said nearly everything was burned beyond use.

“Dad did find his baby book. We’re just trying to salvage what we can.” she said on Saturday. “There are a couple of sewing machines we hope to get out, but we’ll see.”

Samantha Bowers, 16, was busy working with a family friend in 90-degree heat searching for salvageable items from the home’s living room.

They meticulously reached into a charred display case carefully lifting soot-covered glassware through broken glass doors and carrying it out to the home’s porch.

Samantha, who will be a junior at Oregon High School this school year, also lost all of her show blankets for her sheep and goats. Her softball glove was in the back of her grandfather’s truck that was reduced to a burned out shell in the garage.

The Kopers’ 4-H animals were not injured in the blaze.

“Dad just when down to Sterling to get her some new clippers for the upcoming fair,” said Tanya, her mom, and Al’s daughter. “We found her clippers, but they were in a lot of water.”

The family has been staying at a friend’s home on Oregon Trail Road so they can still tend to their animals.

The family was outside working in the yard and discovered the fire in the garage around 4:30 p.m. and called 911.

Mt. Morris Fire Chief Rob Hough the cause of the fire has not yet been determined. 

“The exact cause is still undetermined, but does appear to accidental in nature,” he said July 19. “The most probable area of origin was inside the garage on the east side.”

The Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshall is assisting with the investigation.

Hough said the home was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived within minutes after it was reported.

Fire crews remained on the scene until almost 10 p.m.

Besides battling the blaze, firefighters also dealt with the temperature that approached 90 degrees and high humidity.

Extra fire crews were called in just before 6 p.m. to relieve those on the scene.

Fire departments who assisted Mt. Morris at the scene included Oregon, Polo, Leaf River, Byron, Stillman Valley, Dixon Rural, and Rochelle.

Forreston & German Valley Fire covered the Mt. Morris Firehouse and handled other calls for the Mt. Morris Fire Department.

The Oregon United Methodist Church held a fundraiser last week to help the Koper family and a Facebook fundraiser has been set up.

To help the family in getting back on their feet find Annette Yount (Annette Kraft Yount) on Facebook.

“We have to get ready for the 4-H Fair next week,” said Tanya.

(Earleen Hinton contributed to this story)