Chicago family business says ComEd is not offering fair compensation after power line fire

ByJason Knowles and Ann Pistone WLS logo
Wednesday, April 17, 2024
Family says ComEd not offering fair payment for power line fire damage
A South Side family business destroyed in a fire started by electrical power lines say ComEd is refusing the pay them fairly for damage they caused.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A South Side family business that is more than a century old was destroyed by a ComEd electrical power line fire, and the owners say the utility isn't offering fair compensation.

The owner say damages, losses and repairs total more than $1.5 million. So why is the utility company only offering to cover a small percent of the damages?

"This has been a family business over 100 years. It was my great, great grandfather's coal company. They delivered beer, pop and coal on the South Side by horse and carriage at the time," said Michael Hesser.

Hesser's family business is now a contracting company and while no one was at the business in February, 2021 when the fire broke out, they are still recovering from the disaster.

ComEd power lines fell on the business property in the early morning hours in February of 2021 in West Beverly, igniting a fire.

"The fire report says it's pretty black and white. Their power lines dropped down onto a metal fence, the metal fence was connected to a metal building, the surge came through and ignited the back wall on fire," Hesser said.

The fire report also notes that winds were only 5 miles per hour and the temperature was 41 degrees.

"Those three wires, back in February '21, fell and electrified this chain link fence. You can see a portion down there is just completely disintegrated and the trees here are all charred where they were growing through the fence," said Hesser.

The fiery surge destroyed a warehouse building and the business's front office.

"This was originally a home for my great great grandparents. That was my great grandfather's bedroom over here and here was an office where the kitchen is, this was all completely gutted with smoke damage and water damage," said Hesser.

The blaze and smoke spared some family photographs but not much else.

"The smoke damage just permeated everything. Couldn't keep a computer, couldn't keep chairs, everything was just gone they said it was a complete and total loss," he said.

Hesser filled out a claim with ComEd and with his insurance company. Insurance paid $732,000 after working with contractors and reviewing estimates, and the Hessers said they paid another $800,000. They said they also had to completely tear down and rebuild a wooden and aluminum warehouse in the back after the damage in order to bring it up to code. The Hessers said their itemized bill for demolition, clean-up, renovations, appliances and rebuilding was $1.5 million.

Despite the family's records of all of the costs, ComEd's offer to the family's insurance company was $150,000.

"Thought it was a typo," Hesser admitted. "And then when we just went back and went through all of our emails, and records we realized it had just kinda been their way of treating this. We asked when they're gonna come out and look at it, they said we're not coming out."

The I-Team reached out to ComEd and supplied them the Hesser's documentation. The utility responded saying, "ComEd is committed to providing the best experience for our customers, whether it be access to safe and reliable electricity or how they interact with us. While we don't comment on pending claims, we do strive to perform accurate and thorough investigations in all situations and always treat customers fairly."

"We're not trying to make a spectacle, or were not trying to rob anybody, we just want to get back into business and get repaid for something that wasn't our fault," Hesser said.

If you believe a utility is at fault for damage to your home you can file a claim. In most cases a weather related claim would not be paid out by the utility.