EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – An East St. Louis family has been left homeless after losing everything in a house fire overnight. The family escaped the burning residence but the homeowner believes the fire was intentionally set.
Fire officials say the home is a total loss and investigators are still trying to figure out how the fire started. Homeowner Angela Smith says she is grateful no one was hurt but she wonders if the fire was set on purpose.
Smith says everything they had worked so hard to build is gone.
“It’s just heartbreaking and devastating. I walked out my bedroom and walked in my living room and looked in my kitchen door, and flames were coming in through my back door,” she said.
The fire began just after midnight in the 600 block of 51 st Street. The fire rekindled later that morning. Smoke could be seen for miles. It took firefighters hours to get the blaze under control.
“The flames started in the rear. The residents were able to get out the house,” said East St. Louis Fire Chief Jason Blackmon. “When firefighters arrived, we had to bring in our ladder truck because we had flames going in the back of the house and then through the roof.”
Smith, a mother of six, has lived in her home for 17 years. Now she is wondering how she can move forward after losing everything but the clothes on her back.
“I got out the house with no shoes on, just some pants and a shirt, and ran out the house,” said Smith.
Smith says she was told the fire started outside of her home in the back.
“I believe someone set my house on fire. It's nothing back there to burn up,” she said.
The East St Louis Fire Department would not confirm Smith’s suspicions, only to say the fire is under investigation.
“We are going to have our fire marshal do the investigation to determine the cause of the fire,” Blackmon said.