CHICAGO (WLS) -- A Chicago couple said illegal fireworks caused the fire that destroyed their South Side home, leaving them with nothing.
Charles and Belle McClandon said they were left with nothing after hearing fireworks go off moments before flames consumed their house.
"I have 50 years," Belle gasped out. "I have 50 years in this house."
As many rejoiced at the sight of lights in the Chicago sky over the weekend, their celebration became the McClandons' tragedy.
"Everything has been taken from us, everything has been destroyed," Charles McClandon said. "Everything! We have nothing!"
Charles McClandon is 80 years old and a retired pastor. His wife is 73. The couple was getting ready for bed Sunday night in their Auburn Gresham home. Their son was downstairs in the basement.
"All of a sudden, we hear something pop," Belle recalled.
"And I look into the room and I see fire!" Charles said.
The family escaped with only the clothes on their backs.
"This is the only shoes I have. I have nothing else," said Charles.
Leading up to the holiday weekend, the couple had seen illegal fireworks going off over their home. This time, fire investigators said one may have hit their home, causing a fire that took decades of memories with it.
"They have no idea what they're doing to people's lives," said Belle.
Chicago's Office of Emergency Management said the number of 911 calls for fireworks more than doubled compared to July 4th weekend last year. In 2019 they reported 2,498 calls; this year, they received 5,615.
"My faith says things will get better. They will," Charles said.
The McClandons said this wasn't the first time an illegal firework has caused damage to their home; the couple said several years ago their neighbors shot a firework that landed on the garage and also started a fire.
A GoFundMe campaign has been started to help the couple rebuild their lives.