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19-year-old firefighter dies in blaze at family home in Leaf River

Father, also a volunteer firefighter, and 16-year-old brother hospitalized

LEAF RIVER – A young Leaf River firefighter died this morning and two members of his family are hospitalized after a fire destroyed their home.

Greg Wood, 19, died on the second floor of the home at 209 W. Second St., which is just a block from the fire station, shortly before 1 a.m.

Wood’s father, Marcus Wood, 43, who is the deputy chief of the Leaf River Fire Department, is being treated at the burn unit at OSF St. Anthony Medical Center in Rockford, and his brother, Travis, 16, is at Mercyhealth Hospital in Rockford.

His mother, Nicole, was treated at Mercyhealth and released.

The family’s dog also perished.

The cause of the fire, which is not considered suspicious, is under investigation by Illinois State Police Crime Scene Investigation, the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office, and the Ogle County Sheriff’s Department.

Fire Chief Steve Shelton, who lives across the street from the Woods, said he was awakened about 12:40 a.m. by members of the Wood family pounding on his door for help. By then the entire front of the two-story frame house was in flames, he said.

He and his son, Aaron, also a firefighter, immediately went to the fire station, and when they arrived on the scene with a firet ruck, the house was totally engulfed.

“Basically, there were flames coming from every window of the house,” he said.

Fifteen area fire departments responded with mutual aid. 

This is the first time the Leaf River Fire Department has lost a firefighter in a fire, and the entire department is devastated, Shelton said.

Neighboring fire departments will be covering Leaf River’s fire calls for the next few days.

“I’m at a loss for words,” Shelton said. “He was a fine young man. He cared about the community and was there when we needed him.

“I just want to ask everyone to keep this family and the fire department in their prayers."

Both Marcus and Greg also volunteered for the German Valley Fire Department, and Greg had just completed EMT classes.

“All he needed to do was take the state test to be certified,” Shelton said.

After 2 or 3 hours, the firefighters' efforts depleted the village’s water supply, and they switched to pumping water from tankers. “By the time we switched, the fire was under control and we were just hitting hot spots,” the chief said.

Village Water and Sewer Supervisor Cam McGill said the pumps for the village’s two wells couldn’t produce water fast enough to keep pace with the demand.

Among others, Dixon Rural, Mount Morris, Oregon, Polo and Shannon fire departments responded.

Greg graduated last school year from Forreston High School, where he was a member of the Leaf River Fire Department Volunteer Cadet Program. According to his Facebook page, he workd for Jo-Eng Dairy Farms Inc. in German Valley.

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