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Displaced Fox Lake family finds neighborly support

Sar36 Rannan Chatterje40 front their home S. Maple Fox Lake thwas site dryer fire Friday. SarRannan along with their children

Sara, 36, and Rannan Chatterjea, 40, in front of their home on S. Maple in Fox Lake that was the site of a dryer fire on Friday. Sara and Rannan along with their children, Asha, 8, Kiki, 6, and Jivan, 2, were not at home at the time of the fire. The interior of the home was gutted. Sara said "We lost everything. We do not have a toothbrush, we do not have underwear." Rannan said "We lost both our dogs and our guinea pigs to smoke inhalation." | Thomas Delany Jr.~Sun-Times Media

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Want to help?

Donations for the displaced Chatterjea family, whose Fox Lake home burned on Dec. 7, may be dropped off at ABLE Storage, Inc., 6717 State Park Road, Fox Lake. Office hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. For more information, call (847) 587-ABLE(2253).

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Updated: February 9, 2013 2:08AM

A Fox Lake family who lost their home and pets in a fire is on the receiving end of an outpouring of support from their community.

The Chatterjea family wasn’t home, according to Fox Lake Fire Battalion Chief Ed Lescher, when firefighters pulled up to their burning two-story, wood-frame house at about 11 a.m. Friday. Lescher said heavy smoke was pouring from the home located in downtown Fox Lake, off Grand Avenue. The fire took one-and-a-half hours to extinguish. Departments from Round Lake and Lake Villa also responded.

“It started on the first floor and spread to the second floor,” Lescher said Monday.

Alerted to the fire, Ranan Chatterjea, 40, a special education teacher at Hannah Beardsley Middle School in Crystal Lake, arrived at the house, which was reportedly the site of a home daycare, while it was still burning. The family also includes mom Sara and three children, Asha, 8; Kiki, 6; and Jivan, 2. Two dogs, a dachsund named Molly and a German shepherd/rottweiler mix named Ace, died in the fire. Other pets were also lost, including two guinea pigs and an aquarium of fish.

Chatterjea said Monday a dryer fire started at 6:30 a.m. and fire crews were called and extinguished it.

“So many people are helping us and we don’t even know them,” Sara, 36, said. “We don’t have anything — toothbrushes, underwear.”

“In the beginning, it was surreal,” Ranan said, “but with the support of people, it is becoming more realistic.”

Lescher said his department called the Red Cross to assist the Chatterjeas. He said he is sure the home “will be rebuilt.”

Ranan said the family is staying with relatives in Elgin until they can find a house to rent in Fox Lake.

Word of the fire and the family’s loss of both pets and possessions spread rapidly through social media, and by the weekend food, clothing and household items were being dropped off at ABLE Storage, Inc., in Fox Lake, where owners Chris and Mike Valenziano of Ingleside are donating two months of storage to the family. The business will continue to accept donations on behalf of the family.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Chris Valenziano said. “My husband and I have been self-employed for years. There’s not a lot of warm and fuzzy things you can do with a storage unit. We store stuff. This is warm and fuzzy.”

As a boy, Mike Valenziano lost his home to a fire, according to his wife. Friends of the couple also lost a home in a fire in Johnsburg three weeks before a Christmas past.

“I’m a firm believer that in every tragedy you have to find the up side,” said Chris Valenziano, who has solicited donations of gift certificates from area businesses. “We can work through this. We’re a small community, but there’s power in numbers.”

People have been visiting ABLE to drop off gently used warm clothing, food, books and toys. Valenziano is asking for donations of bins to store the items.

“This family literally needs everything,” she said. “Whatever is donated will be put to use.”

In addition to the drop-off drive, a fund-raiser for the family is being organized by a neighbor.

“It amazes me how, with all going on in the world, a community is still willing to come together to help someone in need,” said neighbor Terry Lanners.

Thomas Delany Jr. contributed to this report

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