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Morris residents witness electrical fire caused by storm

Published: Tuesday, July 1, 2014 9:08 p.m. CST
Caption
(Heidi Litchfield – hlitchfield@shawmedia.com)
A tree fell Monday night at the corner of Pine and Chapin streets, causing electrical wires to spark and catch fire for a few hours before electricity could be cut to the lines.
Caption
(Heidi Litchfield – hlitchfield@shawmedia.com)
Downed electrical wires at Chapin and Pine streets in Morris drilled the way through the concrete sidewalk as well as charring the concrete, fire hydrant and grass in the area.

MORRIS – When Scott Kerr got home from work Monday night, he knew it was storming – but he didn’t expect what would happen next.

“I just got home when the rain started, and then the wind picked up real bad,” Kerr said. “I saw a flash, heard cracking and the tree fell in the street.”

Kerr, who lives at the corner of Chapin and Pine streets in Morris, then got an early Fourth of July fireworks show as the tree took down live wires that skipped and sparked, causing a loud crackling noise and, eventually, fire.

“It was just a spray of fire,” Kerr said. “It scared me to death.”

Crews were unable to suppress the electrical fire until ComEd cut power to the lines, which was not until several hours later, Morris Fire Protection & Ambulance District Chief Tracey Steffes said Tuesday afternoon.

“There is nothing you can do until you de-energize those lines aside from keeping people away from the area, which is what we did,” Steffes said.

On Monday night, severe weather brought winds as fast as 80 mph or more, causing damage through Morris and power outages across 85 to 90 percent of the city Monday night. By late Tuesday afternoon, some residences and some commercial properties north of Route. 6 on Route 47 had power returned such as Jewel-Osco and Wal-Mart, said Morris Mayor Richard Kopczick.

The Morris Fire Protection & Ambulance District responded to more than 100 emergency calls in 24 hours, which is about 10 times the department’s regular call volume, Steffes said at a 10 a.m. news conference Tuesday.

Sam Galifos lives across Pine Street from Kerr, with a small lot between her house and the downed wire.

“You heard a loud crash and then an explosion,” she said. “Our windows were shaking, and I thought the house would explode.”

Galifos and her roommates went outside to watch as the grass caught on fire, and emergency personnel pulled up.

Kerr said he and his wife started to gather items in case they had to evacuate.

“Fire is what caused my concern,” he said.

Galifos said at one point the wires stopped sparking, and she and her neighbors thought all was clear. Then when power came back on for a portion of downtown Morris, the second round of fire and sparks came.

“We didn’t want to go to bed until it was out,” Galifos said.

She said ComEd showed up between 1:30 and 2 a.m. and climbed the pole to shut the power down to the wires.

Strong straight-line winds up to 80 mph were reported in the storm.

On the north side of town, Kathleen Webster was sitting in her home when she heard a loud crash as a tree fell onto her Cambridge Drive home, causing significant damage to the roof and windows.

“I knew something happened,” she said. “I heard glass shatter.”

The window in a spare room blew out and damage was done to her kitchen.

Upon further inspection, she found a large portion of tree was also sitting on her car that was parked in the driveway.

Homes on Wauponsee Street and Lisbon Road also reported trees landing on homes.

Eric Werden, who lives on Black Street, said not only was his home affected by the fallen tree but because power remained out all night his sump pump had stopped working, causing water issues within his home.

A metal pole barn structure that houses businesses off Gore Road also suffered significant damage, as the sheet metal roof was ripped off the west side of the roof, and homes in Saratoga Fields had shingle and siding damage.

• Morris Daily Herald Reporter Jessica Bourque also contributed to this report.

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