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Park Hills couple safe after devastating fire destroys home

A Park Hills couple with disabilities are thankful to be alive after a fire destroyed their rental home Monday afternoon. Jeannie Erhardt

Joseph and Marcella Chervenak lost the home they rented as well as their belongings in a Monday afternoon fire. First responders from nearly every fire department in St. Francois County converged on 300 Eighth St. in Park Hills to douse the hungry flames. The Chervenaks could only watch in shock as the rental home they shared for nearly 10 years burned.

“I was burning a small box and a few papers in a fire pit at the end of my driveway. I thought the fire was out, but the wind picked up, and an ember caught some dry leaves on fire,” said Mr. Chervenak.

He said the fire quickly spread through the dry leaves to his deck, and soon, the entire deck was ablaze.

“I called 911 right away,” he added.

When asked how she knew the home was on fire, Mrs. Chervenak said, “I heard Joe yell for me to get out of the house.”

Both Chervenaks are wheelchair-bound and say they are thankful to have escaped the inferno without injuries.

“We owe our neighbors and the firemen a huge thank you,” Mrs. Chervenak said.

With this being Fire Prevention Week, Big River Fire Protection District Fire Chief David Pratte offered a reminder of how fast a fire can get out of control, saying, “Fire doubles every 30 seconds.”

One day after a devastating fire, the Chervenak’s Park Hills rental home is uninhabitable. Jeannie Erhardt

Neighbors readily assisted the Chervenaks with contacting relatives and the Red Cross, along with providing water, prayers, and comfort. According to Mrs. Chervenak, the Park Hills Presbyterian Church offered temporary housing for the couple. At the same time, the Red Cross provided resources for medication replacement and financial assistance for obtaining a new permanent residence. Mrs. Chervenak says a couple of firefighters went above and beyond by donating water and toiletries.

The Chervenack’s son, Michael, set up a GoFundMe page to help his parents with expenses because they did not have renters insurance. To contribute, go to and follow the website instructions.

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