An elderly man from suburban Joliet died Wednesday morning after lightning struck his home, starting a fire spotted by neighbors.
Just after 6 a.m. Wednesday morning, thunder and lightning awakened an East Joliet neighborhood and which struck 85-year-old Raymond Ziegler's home.
"I was sleeping and lightning struck. Sounded like it was really loud, real close by. Woke me up out of a dead sleep," East Joliet neighbor Jameel Haleem said.
Shortly after the strike, a neighbor called 9-1-1 to report smoke coming from Ziegler's house. Fire officials said when they arrived at the house, a majority of the fire was located in the back.
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"When fire crews got here, they initially tried to make entry on the first floor and extinguish the fire. They were met with multiple obstacles which compromised their extinguishment and first search," East Joliet Fire Department Deputy Chief Matt Grohar said.
Fire officials searched the home and found Ziegler lying on the bathroom floor, Grohar said. He confirmed that the fire was caused by lightning striking the house, which caused a power surge.
"At that time, the victim was removed from the house, but unfortunately he succumbed to smoke inhalation," Grohar said.
Neighbors said that Ziegler lived by himself and was well-respected. He always took care of his lawn, they added.
"It’s sad, because, you know, older guy, I feel so bad, never got a chance to even talk to him and he passed away," Haleem said.
Grohar warned that a lightning strike is not something for which people can necessarily prepare.
"It’s just due to the weather that we were having and the severity of the lightning, it just hit and it took the house with it," Grohar said.