Couple living in tent after house fire

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The flames began in the back of Gregg Ward and Lewanna Diehl's Oquawka home, spreading through their kitchen and leaving behind only charred remains.

They were left nothing. No home. No insurance.

Luckily, one of their friends gave them a two-person tent that they have been living in ever since.

"It's cold at night and hot during the day," said Lewanna, her forehead dripping with sweat.

Their home caught fire on Friday, May 23, when Gregg and Lewanna returned from a walk.

"We got home and my neighbor yelled, "Don't go in there because your house is on fire"," Gregg said while sitting in a couch in his backyard which he managed to salvage from the fire.

When Gregg saw the flames for himself, he immediately ran into the burning home.

"I had to try and save my animals," Gregg exclaimed.

He successfully saved his dog, a few cats and his rabbit, but there were several cats, rabbits, and a pet raccoon that he was unable to save.

Gregg was crawling on his hands and knees, scrambling to find his animals.

"I looked up above me and all I could see was black smoke," Gregg said, throwing his arms in the air.

The couple is now living in their backyard. Feeling hopeless, it seemed nothing could go right. Until a group in the community donated a trailer to the couple.

There's just one problem- the trailer isn't newer than 7 years old- meaning the couple would be violating the Village code of Oquawka. The couple would need a variance granted by the village before they could move the trailer on the lot.

"We just want that trailer where our old one was," Gregg said.

Village President Sandra Moody told News 8 the Village Board will be meeting Monday to discuss whether they will issue a variance to the couple.


  • Peggy

    Why is it we can move a 100 year old house anywhere or in town and you can’t move in a used trailer in to town!

  • Bird

    Because the older trailers catch on fire so easy, Peggy. But in this case people are saying that the law says 15 years old. People are also saying they are trying to get them to move to another town due to how they live. They say they are nice folks but are hoarders and never bathe. Some folks in Oquawka could care less how they live others are begging the government to get them out of Oquawka. I find it funny that they care so much about how these two live and not any of the other dumpy homes in Oquawka. Guess they just live in the wrong area of Oquawka. I think they should let them have the trailer and just have the trailer inspected for safety, electric and that sort of thing. If anything is found get it fixed before they can move in so there is not another fire. Then pass a law about clean yards and enforce it so all those other homes dont catch on fire too. If you get folfs to keep their out door yards clean maybe just maybe they’ll think to keep the inside not so bad.

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