19-year-old man dies in Walworth County house fire, three others hurt

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WALWORTH COUNTY — Tragedy in a town known for fun and vacation. A massive house fire has taken the life of a 19-year-old man in Fontana, near Lake Geneva.

The fire broke out early Friday morning, August 14th at a home on Juneau Drive in the Village of Fontana.

Police say the 911 calls that first came around 2 p.m., were from distant neighbors saying "something was on fire." When police arrived, the Juneau Drive home was engulfed in flames.

"When we arrived at the scene, they reported that there were three people outside the residence and one that was still missing," said Fontana Fire Chief, Wolfgang Nitsch.

That person, 19-year-old Ryan Opitz, was in a back bedroom.

"A search and rescue team, through a bedroom window, brought out a fourth victim," said Chief Nitsch.

The fire chief says Opitz was unresponsive and was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Opitz's dad, another family member, and another 19-year-old were taken to the hospital for treatment.

The fire chief says one thing they did not notice at the scene was the sound of smoke detectors going off.

"That would have made a huge point if they would have had smoke detectors. I am not 100% positive they didn't, but no indication we found at this point that there were active smoke detectors going off," said Chief Nitsch.

People living nearby tell FOX6 News, the dad of the 19-year-old and at least one neighbor tried to go back inside the house while it was still burning, but were unable to get the man out. The firefighters were the ones to bring him out, unresponsive.

The three surviving victims have been admitted to Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center in Janesville.

The 81-year-old who lived where the fire occurred is in critical condition. The hospital reports the others in 'good condition.'

Fatal fire in the Village of Fontana

Fatal fire in the Village of Fontana

Fire departments from the Villages of Walworth, Williams Bay, Darien, along with units from the cities of Lake Geneva, Delavan, Harvard and the townships of Linn and Delevan assisted in fighting the fire, which was under control by 2:35 a.m.

The Walworth County Sheriff's Office and the Town of Linn Police Department also assisted at the scene.

The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Fontana Police Department, the Walworth County Fire and Task Force along with the State of Wisconsin DCI.

Google Map for coordinates 42.551374 by -88.575208.


  • Concerned citizen W.B.

    Condolences to the family, but in this corrupt village it was bound to happen. To busy spending money on replacing equipment and vehicles within their fire department and ignoring the staffing issues. With a sizable number of their new personnel living or residing in IL, it leaves the question of who exactly responds to the call for help during the week or on weekends. A department that tried to correct their internal issues by signing an over priced contract with a private ambulance service that provides EMS services only during a 12 hour period during the daytime. Staffed with personnel, that are in a revolving door company, resulting in a questionable training and knowledge of the area with a yearly turnover rate for this contract alone exceeding 100%. Before the question of smoke detectors is raised by the Chief of the department as a leading possibility of the loss of life, the other questions should be raised including the response times to the scene. The department uses the on scene time of the 1st person from the department for reporting purposes, which could show it took only a couple minutes, but that person is usually in a personal vehicle and cannot do anything until an actual crew arrives which could be several minutes later. So instead of worring about staffing and paying for full-time 24 hour a day coverage, they convince the village board to purchase newer vehicles, and make modifications to a boat for their joke of a dive team (consists of 1 or 2 actual divers, at best). Their Assistant Chief was or is being investigated for internal theft from the full-time department in IL where he works, and the Chief of Fontana being fully aware of this as the department in IL came to him to reclaim their missing property has done nothing other than help cover this up.
    So it’s not surprising at all that this village had a fatal fire, and just like the smoke detector if the department (and I cannot say for 100%) was fully staffed and worked then their may not have been a loss of life.

    • Fontana resident and former law enforcement

      Concerned citizen, you seem to know quite a lot, but you are mostly wrong on the asst chief. No theft, at all. Just a full time paper chief who has a vendetta with someone. Trust me, the chief up here wouldn’t tolerate if it was anything serious. As far as full time fire up here, would be nice but isn’t reality. Instead of slamming everyone why don’t you step up and volunteer, you sound like quite the expert.

      • Concerned citizen W.B.

        Must have struck a nerve, unless Fontana is spelled E.G.V.F.D. and equipment engraved as such was being given back for no reason, then your right there was never an investigation and the management in Fontana never covered up the fact that they (E.G.V.F.D.) came to Fontana, and reclaimed their property that mysteriously appeared in their firehouse and on their vehicles. It’s just a coincidence that the assistant chief works both places, and instead of theft it must be borrowing? Whatever, as you state, you are a “Fontana Resident”, and that means you know the most. I only slammed the management of the fire department, and the village board that believes everything they are told by the fire department heads, and no one else. As far as volunteering, the full-time position I currently hold prevents me from doing so as stated in my contract and it’s very surprising to see that it is allowed by some of these IL departments or maybe those departments are unaware that their personnel are volunteering in Fontana on the side. But if it ever changes where I’m at, I’d consider it. And about the trust you part, that’s cute. Fontana Resident and Former Law Enforcement, that means you are probably former law enforcement from Chicagoland area, the LAST place on earth to trust someone who states “Trust Me”.

  • Fontana resident and former law enforcement

    Wow, concerned citizen, you really seem upset about this. I’m sure if there was actual theft the police would be involved. As for where I was law enforcement, nope, not the “chicagoland” area, not even close. If you need to know, I was on the
    Federal level. As far as full timers volunteering, if they can, which clearly these “Illinois” departments allow, thank goodness b/c if not for these volunteers in many towns, those volunteer departments would be in serious trouble. I can’t figure out if you have an axe to grind with this volunteer chief, police from the “Chicagoland” area or all of Illinois, but take a deep breath and relax. Life’s too short, control what you can. Almost sounds like you have a personal vendetta with this assistant chief, who from what I know is dedicated to his profession. Not everyone is perfect like you, and if there is anything illegal about what he is doing or has done, I am sure it will be dealt with. I have friends who are egvpd and from what I hear, there are guys on that FD who have done significantly worse things that if they were “out” would make this person you are referring to appear as a saint. Just saying, and no skin in this game, I’ll wait for the law to deal with it, until then it’s a non issue in my book and I’ll appreciate the full time and volunteer work he and many others perform every day.

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