Memories recovered after destructive fire

Local News

GILMAN, Ill. (WCIA) — A man has been living in a tent after losing his home and business in a fire.

As the cleanup begins, Andy Johnson’s family isn’t letting this loss set them back. The fire happened on May 9, 2018. It was at the old lumberyard building in Gilman. Now, the Johnson family is literally picking up the damage the fire left behind.

The fire department now know the cause of the fire was narrowed down to an old wire that sparked sparked the electrical box. But this fire isn’t the end, it’s just the beginning of what the Johnson’s have been through. 

Their home, a business, and a place full of memories was gone within hours. 

Paul Johnson says, “It’s been very hard for everyone to go through this because we came out of there with nothing but the shirts on our backs.”

The family use to live and work out of the old lumberyard building. They ran their custom woodworking business on one side and lived in the other. But fire tore through it, taking almost everything they owned with it.

Andy Johnson says, “Just about the only thing we didn’t lose is whatever is in his and my heads from being able to do this stuff. We really don’t have any of the tools or anything left to do any of it right now.”

Andy Johnson has been living in a tent for weeks. He’s calling it a temporary home as they clean up the mounds of rubble that were once a collection of 30 years of memories. The fire burned everything from power poles to the kitchen sink. But underneath all the rubble the family found some things that could never be replaced.

“There’s letters my dad wrote my mom when he was in the service.”

Charred edges mark the traces where the fire seared the paper. Much like this family, the things that truly matter made it out safe. But a day after it happened, Paul Johnson got a call from his doctor with more bad news. He has colon cancer, liver cancer and lung cancer. 

It’s been one hard hit after another. But the Johnsons refuse to see it that way.

Paul Johnson says, “I’m going to beat it. The doctor told me there’s no cure. We’re not looking backwards were looking forwards.”

They see this as a opportunity to rebuild not just their lives, but their business too. Moving on, this is a family of fighters and survivors.

“It’s got to get better. We just have to push forward.” 

The Johson’s are about to settle with the insurance company soon. They plan to rebuild a smaller scale version of their business and home. The hope is to start in August. 

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