Investigators are continuing to seek the cause and source of a fire Tuesday afternoon that may have ruined a luxury house, into which a Naperville-area family moved just before the Thanksgiving holiday.
As many as 90 firefighters from as far away as Lyons and Villa Park battled the stubborn blaze. It broke out about 3:39 p.m. Tuesday at the white, mansion-like house on the 24W700 block of Ohio Street, in the unincorporated Steeple Run area of DuPage County near Naperville’s far east side.
Two firefighters suffered minor injuries during the fire. They were treated at area hospitals and later released.
The house is owned by lifelong Naperville residents Pete and Kathy Seegebrecht. They live there with their two teenage sons and three pet cats.
Pete Seegebrecht said at the scene he was home alone about 2 p.m. Tuesday. His sons, ages 16 and 14, arrived a short time later after their school day at Benet Academy in Lisle, and were doing their homework when the fire erupted. All three got out of the house unhurt.
“Other than the fact that a fire started, I don’t know what the cause is,” Pete Seegebrecht said.
The family has lived in Naperville for many years, and only moved into the house about a week ago. Pete Seegebrecht tried to be philosophical about their loss.
“Whatever happens, happens,” he said as the house continued to burn. “That is what you have insurance for.”
Lisle-Woodridge Fire District Bureau Chief Jim French on Wednesday said a member of the Seegebrecht family called 911 to report the smell of smoke inside the house. Twenty-five firefighters brought nine emergency vehicles and pieces of apparatus to the area, and were followed a short time later by another contingent of firefighters and eight additional vehicles, French said in a release.
The first firefighters to arrive at the scene unrolled and hooked up hoses and began extinguishment operations, French said. Others hoisted ladders at various points around the house and made sure it had been evacuated, he said.
Smoke was seen pouring out of the house about 5 p.m., when firefighters raised two aerial ladders to the roof. Flames began shooting from the roof’s peak about 20 minutes later, and were promptly doused with water from the aerial ladders’ high-pressure hoses.
Firefighters cut holes in the roof to help ventilate the building. Flames rose again on the rooftop about 6 p.m. and were again extinguished by firefighters.
The main body of the fire “was under control early into the incident,” but firefighters were compelled “to work on hidden fires for approximately six hours,” French said. Some remained on the scene until about 1:12 a.m. Wednesday, “performing salvage duties and overhauling the burned areas of the structure,” which French said was deemed uninhabitable.
French said it was “hard to say” whether the house could be saved or would have to be demolished. He did not have a financial damage estimate.
Two of the Seegebrechts’ cats are also missing and possibly on the loose in the neighborhood.
French estimated 80 to 90 firefighters were sent to the scene of the blaze. He said he did not know how many firefighting agencies assisted during the emergency.
In addition to those from the Lisle-Woodridge Fire District, engines, trucks and other emergency vehicles observed in the area were from the Aurora, Downers Grove, Hinsdale, Lombard, Lyons, Naperville, Villa Park, Warrenville and Wheaton fire departments; the Darien-Woodridge, Lemont, and York Center fire protection districts; and the Glen Ellyn Volunteer Fire Company.