Updated: Champaign house fire under investigation

Updated: Champaign house fire under investigation

The man who helped a woman to safety from her burning house in southwest Champaign on Tuesday said he is not a hero.

The blaze heavily damaged the house and sent the woman to the hospital with smoke inhalation. A firefighter also went to the hospital with an unknown injury.

Champaign Fire Marshal John Koller said firefighters were called to the one story home at 1107 Lincolnshire Drive shortly before noon and found smoke and flames coming from the garage.

A woman was in the breezeway of the home at the time of the fire, but Bob Zebe of rural Tolono was nearby and was able to bring her and a dog to safety out of the flames and heavy smoke.

Zebe said adrenaline set in once he knew what he had to do, and that it wasn't a heroic act.  It was just the right thing to do.

Zebe also credited another man nearby, Gary Ducey, with assisting him in getting the woman to safety and calling 911.  Fire Marshal Koller said the woman was conscious and alert when she was taken from the scene.

The fire caused heavy damage to the garage and a vehicle inside, but an exact damage estimate isn't known.  Officials are also not certain that the fire started in the garage, but they plan to start their investigation there.

Meanwhile, the former owner of the home said it's sad day to see it heavily damaged by fire.

Marianne Kellerhals and her husband Ken moved into the home in 1960 and lived there for 26 years. They have now lived next door to the home for the last eight years.
Kellerhals said all three of the couple's children were raised in the house damaged by the blaze.  She said a house is house, but a home is what you make it with your family.

Kellerhals added that she feels very bad for the owners of the fire-damaged home.  The owners bought the home from the Kellerhals in 1986 and have spent nearly 30 years there.

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