Madison Red Cross, insurance adjusters respond to Illinois tornadoes

After an EF-4 tornado devastated Fairdale and Rochelle, Illinois, killing at least two people, four Madison-area Red Cross volunteers and at least four Madison-based insurance adjusters, including American Family Insurance Agent Jeff Jagla, are helping with the massive response effort.

“In the Rochelle area we have homes that are just completely wiped off of their foundation, so the damage is pretty severe here. We have not been able to access the Fairdale area. But from the reports we’re seeing, it’s pretty extensive,” Jagla said. “It’s bad. Homes are leveled. Customers, I mean, they lose everything in their home. Everything they’ve had since they were little is gone. Family photos. So it’s pretty extensive, pretty bad. And we just want to help out the customers.”

Madison-based Red Cross volunteer Mike Siwek, from Evansville, spent Friday driving a Wisconsin emergency response vehicle, or ERV, from the Janesville office to Rockford, where he will join three other volunteers from Dodgeville and Reedsburg.

“Right now we’re going to Rockford, which is the Red Cross headquarters for that area,” Siwek said. “I don’t know what exactly we’re going to do. If we’re going to be feeding or logistics like rakes, shovels, cleanup kits.”

If they are given feeding duties, Siwek said the ERV’s coolers can hold meals for up to 500 people at a time.

“I’m there to help them out. It’s hard because they’re in a bad place. But you can usually make them feel better about it,” Siwek said.

In nearby Kirkland, which is 4 miles away from Fairdale’s ground zero, the fire station has been turned into a donation staging ground. Early Saturday morning, residents in need will be able to receive goods to help in starting their recovery.

American Family Insurance, along with other insurance companies, has set up temporary headquarters next to the Kirkland Fire Station.

“And it’s just trying to help them get through that process,” Jagla said. “Finding places to live. And start rebuilding their life. So by having a site like this it gives visibility to our customers.”

The Red Cross said making a cash donation is the best way to help. Call 800-RED-CROSS or visit www.redcross.org.