Large fire at Oakbrook Terrace apartment complex possibly caused by lightning

Crews are using a drone to assess the damage

ByEvelyn Holmes and Stephanie Wade and Maher Kawash WLS logo
Sunday, July 30, 2023
Over 100 displaced after suburban apartment complex fire
Firefighters in Oakbrook Terrace responded to a large fire that broke out early Saturday at the Arden of Oakbrook on Royce Blvd.

OAKBROOK TERRACE, Ill. (WLS) -- Firefighters spent hours putting out a large fire at an apartment complex in west suburban Oakbrook Terrace.

The fire broke out early Saturday morning at the Arden of Oak Brook apartment complex on Royce Boulevard off of Butterfield Road.

The fire started after the building was struck by lightning during the overnight storms, according to a letter sent to residents by the leasing administrator.

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One resident who did not want to be identified said he pulled the fire alarm after calling 911 and alerting his neighbors to the danger.

"The rain had just started coming down and the lightning just said boom and it hit. I saw it hit the roof and it made me fall back," he said.

"We were in bed and it was raining. It was normal thunder and all of sudden we heard the loudest thunder I've ever heard in my life," said Chinitha Johnson. "My husband said that sounded close and within like a minute a woman screamed fire Looked out the window and there was fire in the top of the corner of the building so we began to run out and pack and people started coming out."

Firefighters arrived at the sprawling complex to find the roof of one of the buildings engulfed in flames.

"With everything that got up inside the attic area and the way it took off, we were up against a lot of volume of fire," said York Fire District Chief Richard Sanborn.

Officials said even though the building and its units have sprinklers, it still took nearly five hours to put the fire out. More than 100 people were displaced. The Red Cross believes about 150 apartments were impacted by the fire.

The Lirije Mehmeti said everything in her fourth floor unit was lost.

"I have nothing, I've just got my two hands. I have no driver's license, no passport, nothing. Everything is burned," she said.

Crews could be seen using a drone to assess the wide extent of the damage. A large portion of the building was completely destroyed, leaving many resident displaced.

"It didn't look like it was going to be that bad, and to see what it looks like this morning is unreal," said resident Kendall Griffin.

The Red Cross remains on site to help as building management works to relocate tenants whose units were destroyed or damaged. Management said there were no injuries or casualties.

The leasing agent said the restoration company was on site.