Lightning sparks Belleville apartment fire; seven displaced

Lighting is the likely cause of a fire that severely damaged an apartment building Tuesday night, the owner of the building said Wednesday afternoon.

At least seven residents of the two-story, four-unit building on Hillside Lane off Illinois 13 were displaced after the building was severely damaged by the second-alarm fire.

According to building owner Steve Reeb, who also is a St. Clair County Board member, his insurance adjustor said a lightning strike started the fire.

Belleville Fire Chief Tom Pour had said earlier in the day that his investigators “can’t rule out lightning” as the cause.

Fire crews first arrived around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday to see flames shooting high above the building.

Pour said neighbors told investigators at the scene that they heard a loud crash before seeing smoke.

The Red Cross is assisting the residents displaced by the fire, all of whom were able to leave the building without injury.

Some of those residents were back Wednesday trying to salvage what they could before another round of forecasted rain showers moved in.

“Folks are here trying to get as much out as they can,” Reeb said. “We’re trying to take care of them. We have a couple (open apartments) here and a couple units elsewhere in town.”

Reeb said he’ll rebuild, a process he’s “unfortunately been through before.” A decade ago, a building in the same complex as the one that burned Tuesday was destroyed by a fire.