Storms spark fires, displace residents

August 3, 2011 (FRANKFORT, Ill.)

Tuesday night's storms brought heavy rain and high winds and knocked down several trees, and at least four fires in the suburbs are believed to have started when lightning hit houses.

ComEd officials said crews were restoring power to approximately more than 6,000 customers Wednesday afternoon. At the height of the storms, more than 100,000 customers were in the dark. Crews working in Elmhurst, for example, had their hands full clearing broken branches, some of which hit power lines on the way down.

Blazes broke out in Naperville and Lockport, and an extra-alarm fire also started in southwest suburban Frankfort.

Fire officials said lightning was to blame for the Frankfort fire. They also said no one could live in the two-story home in the Homestead subdivision any more. The damaged house was boarded up Wednesday because of the fire.

"It was a ball of fire coming out of the left side of the house, and it was obvious that the lightning hit the chimney, and the whole chimney was gone," said neighbor Beth Vani.

Vani and her daughter heard lightning crack and shot home video of the fire spreading through the house.

"It was kind of like all going sideways, and there was one big crack...and it was thick and it was loud," Vani said.

Fortunately, the homeowners were away when the fire started after 11:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Fire officials say they made no human rescues at the Frankfort home. A cat, however, was found unharmed inside of the house.

"My dad went inside. It was in the living room behind the curtain," Gianna Vani said. "It made me feel happy."

The Frankfort fire is said to have caused close to a $500,000 worth of damage. The roof of the home was clearly destroyed Wednesday.

Fire crews returned later Wednesday morning to put out a hot spot that flared up.

Lightning hit the roof of a Naperville home on Augustana Drive, as well. No injuries were reported in that fire, which broke out just after 10 p.m. Tuesday. According to the Naperville Fire Department, those inside of the home were able to escape before fire crews arrived.

The Naperville home has also been classified as uninhabitable.

In Lockport, another home was also struck by lightning. Fire crews battled a house fire on the 500-block of 13th Street after overnight storms moved through that area.

Residents in Frankfort tell ABC7 they feel lucky that the fire did not spread to their homes.

"If the wind was blowing towards our house and it was strong enough, it could have caught onto our house too," Maria DiGiovanni said.

Neighbors also said the owners of the home that was destroyed were scheduled to return from vacation some time Wednesday. Fortunately, one neighbor across the street reportedly has a fire and water restoration business. ABC7 is told he was helping the victims out Wednesday free of charge.

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