It's been a busy weekend for Chester firefighters, who responded to the report of two house fires and a water rescue in a span of about 12 ½ hours from Saturday afternoon to early Sunday morning.
It started with the report of a water rescue around 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, as the Chester Fire Department was paged for its rescue boat and to stage at the Mary's River boat ramp along Route 3 south of Chester.
The CFD discovered that location wasn't suitable for putting the boat in the water, so firefighters re-deployed to the boat ramp on the Mississippi River.
Chester Fire Chief Marty Bert told the Herald Tribune a man was fishing along the bank of the river, walked out onto a rock dike and fell in. He was swept about 100 yards downstream before being rescued by a different group of fishermen, who pulled the man from the water before firefighters arrived.
The Chester Police Department hasn't released the name of the man, who was transported by MedStar Ambulance to Chester Memorial Hospital.
"He did take on a lot of water," Bert said.
Less than two hours later, at 4:45 p.m., Chester firefighters were paged to a house fire at 356 Murphysboro Road, three blocks east of Grace Church.
Firefighters arrived to find heavy smoke and flames coming from the second story. No people were home at the time of the fire, but two dogs and two cats lost their lives.
Neighbors were able to save two other dogs who were on the first floor, and another cat made it out and was found on Sunday. A surge protector that had a cell phone charger left plugged in has been preliminarily ruled as the cause.
Then around 3:07 a.m. on Sunday, firefighters were paged to 110 Holmes Circle, in the trailer court behind the Chester Center, on the report of a trailer that had previously burned was on fire again.
Three Chester children and their grandmother, Mary Farmer, lost their home in a April 5 fire at that location that rendered the fire uninhabitable. The family has since relocated.
The former Farmer home was fully engulfed when firefighters arrived on Sunday and no one was around upon their arrival. Firefighters remained on scene for about two hours.
"We're pretty sure it's arson," Bert said. "There's no power, no gas, no electric. Somebody had to set it."
Bert was asked if a cause was ever officially determined in the April 5 fire.
"We think that was intentional as well, but we couldn't prove that," he said. "There was no ignition point at the point of where it started."