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Local News

Crystal Lake house fire leaves family unharmed, extensive damage

CRYSTAL LAKE — Scott and Jenn Debates closed the sale on their Crystal Lake home June 30, 2009. Exactly five years later, on Monday, a bolt of lightning apparently struck the roof, setting it ablaze before the sun came up.

Their home, 4016 Ned Drive, caught fire around 2 a.m. Monday during a severe thunderstorm that put McHenry County under a tornado warning issuance for roughly 40 minutes.

For Scott, the real emergency came after the initial storm warning.

"All of a sudden the whole house shook," he said. "[My] son got up [and] I got up."

Smelling something odd, he asked his wife, Jenn, if she had left a candle burning.

"She said, 'No, I didn't leave a candle lit,'" Scott said, standing on his front porch a couple hours later. "[I] came out to the front door, saw embers coming down, then saw the tree with the big split in it … [I] came out — house [was] on fire."

He ran upstairs to gather his wife, his 23-year-old son and their dogs, Daisy and Duke. Once safely out of the house, which is almost completely surrounded by trees, they called for help and waited, watching the flames dance at the top of their home's attic.

Upon arrival to the scene at 3 a.m., the Crystal Lake Fire Department reported seeing smoke and flames. It, plus 10 additional departments from surrounding areas, had the fire under control in about 40 minutes, according to a news release.

The release further states the extra help was needed as the area is not one served by fire hydrants.

On scene, Battalion Chief Bob Kohley from Crystal Lake said the fire was contained to the attic area.

From the outside, the residence appeared untouched except for the charred, gaping hole at the peak of the home.

The interior damage, however, was painful for the Debates after just having finished five years worth of restoration.

Fire officials later said a large hole through the bottom of the attic had to be made in order to expose the space and ensure it was free of embers. The freshly-painted entranceway ceiling will also have to come down and be redone, as well.

Scott estimated the extent of the damage at $30,000 to $40,000. The initial damage estimate, according to the news release, was $65,000.

While they said they had their fingers crossed for insurance to come through, both Scott and Jenn agreed there were far more important things to focus on for now.

"Everybody's safe; everybody's sound; the house will be fixed eventually," Scott said. "That's all we can ask for."

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