Javier Gonzalez was watching TV at his home at 2186 Eve’s Circle West in DeKalb around 8:30 p.m. Feb. 20 when he smelled something like burning plastic coming from his kitchen.
Calling out to his wife Maria and their adult son who was getting ready to leave for work, Javier rushed to see what was causing the smell. Flames were shooting out of their dishwasher and the wall next to it. Javier immediately went to grab water from the kitchen sink, but the plastic pipes were already starting to melt and water wouldn’t come out. Javier called 911 and exited the house with his family.
The DeKalb Fire Department responded to the call and found smoke showing from an open garage door of the wood-frame townhouse. The Cortland, Genoa-Kingston, Malta, Maple Park, Shabbona and Sycamore fire departments assisted in putting out the fire.
A DeKalb firefighter was taken to Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital for smoke inhalation and was released the same night and Maria Gonzalez was treated at the scene.
DeKalb Fire Chief Jeff McMaster said the fire caused $72,000 in damages to the property and the family’s belongings.
“Our house was completely damaged and we lost everything,” Javier Gonzalez said. “We lost all our clothes, all our furniture, our electronics and TVs. We had just bought a new refrigerator two weeks before [this happened].”
Gonzalez said he believes the fire started in the dishwasher, which they had never used in the four years of renting the house.
The house is being renovated with new walls, flooring and carpeting. During the renovation process, the Gonzalez family has moved into a nearby apartment with their oldest son and his family.
“I don’t think that we’ll go back [to the house], there’s just too many memories,” Gonzalez said. “It’s too scary. I still have nightmares. You know, I don’t care about losing the stuff inside, as long as I have my family and we’re safe together.”
Javier and Maria Gonzalez have worked in the kitchen at PJ’s Courthouse Tavern, 202 W. State St. in Sycamore, for 22 years. When they told John Schwartz, who co-owns the restaurant with his brother Paul, about the fire the next day, the restaurant owners and staff knew they wanted to do something to help.
Ten percent of all proceeds from sales at PJ’s Courthouse Tavern from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday – St. Patrick’s Day – will be donated to the Gonzalez family.
The fundraiser also will feature live music, drawings, homemade corned beef and cabbage, and Irish drink specials, including green beer, Guinness and Jameson. One of the evening’s drawings includes a $500 gift certificate to Great Wolf Lodge.
“I can’t imagine what they’re going through,” John Schwartz said. “We didn’t realize just how much need there was. They called us the next day to tell us what happened and we read about it in the paper. They lost everything.”
Sue Schwartz, John’s wife, said that hosting the fundraiser is a way to bring the community together to help, especially since St. Patrick’s Day is one of the restaurant’s busiest nights. Donations also can be made at the restaurant through St. Patrick’s Day.
“Javier and Maria are loving, caring people, always willing to help,” Sue Schwartz said.
“They’re hardworking and loyal,” John Schwartz said. “They’re just good people. That’s why we have to do something to help them.”
Javier Gonzalez wanted to thank the Schwartz family for organizing the event, the first responders that helped put out the fire, the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.
“Having a fundraiser is really nice, we didn’t expect this kind of support,” Javier Gonzalez said. “We never thought we’d be in this kind of situation.