COLUMBIA, Ill. – A massive fire destroyed the home of a renowned local car dealer overnight, and claimed the lives of two pets at the residence. It took firefighters from across southern Illinois a few hours to put the fire out.

According to Chief Mike Roediger, Columbia Fire Protection District, the fire started around 2:15 a.m. Monday, at the home of Lori and George “Skip” Weber IV.

The back of the home is gone, and the inside gutted.

“Upon arrival, we had flames through the roof. Pretty much the entire structure was fully involved. We called for all our neighboring departments,” Roediger said.

The chief said the couple called 911 as they were leaving the house, located on Charlotte Avenue in the Stonegate Estates subdivision.

Fire departments from Prairie Du Pont, Mehlville, Dupo, and Waterloo responded to help get the massive blaze under control.

Roediger said it was not safe for anyone to go inside the residence because the homeowners had propane tanks in the backyard and ammo stored in a basement safe. The ammo went off while firefighters struggled to extinguish the fire.

Crews also only had one hydrant to work with.

“Luckily, they have a swimming pool in the back. We’re able to pump water out of the back of it, just keeping water flowing,” Roediger said. “This is a dead-end water line here, so we’re sort of had troubles with water when we hooked up to two hydrants.”

The Webers have three kids who are adults and do not live here, but this was their childhood home. They came to the site to console their parents.

“We’re here to support ’em with anything, I know the community’s behind ’em also,” Roediger said. “George is big into Songs for Soldiers in Columbia. He’s the main sponsor for that, and I’m sure the entire community will rally around him and help him out.”

Nothing seems suspicious about the fire, which took firefighters approximately three hours to extinguish, Roediger said.

“It started in the back area,” the chief said. “We’re not sure if it was under the deck or in the basement area someplace, but it started on the lower level, as far as we can tell right now.”

The Illinois State Fire Marshal is also investigating to determine how and where the fire started.