KMOV- Two strong storms blew through Edwardsville Sunday afternoon knocking out power and igniting a fire that destroyed a student housing complex at Southern Illinois University.
Mike Schultz, a housing director at SIUE tells KMOV.com that SIUE police officer Dan Murray was on patrol and noticed smoke coming from one of the complexes around midnight. He immediately started an evacuation. Only two residents were found inside. Both escaped without injury.
Accoring to Mr. Shultz, a storm at 4:30pm caused a tree limb to crash into the power lines that supplied the complexes. The fire alarms were not active due to the power failure. Power was restored to the apartments at 5:30 Monday morning.
Edwardsville Fire Chief Brian Wilson Jr. concluded that early evidence showed lightning may have caused the fire because of burn patterns and other evidence indicating the blaze started in the attic. It was also noted Monday that there was no one cooking in the building at the time nor was there evidence of combustibles.
"Ive now made the decision that it was lightning and I believe the evidence supports that finding," Wilson said Tuesday.
A University risk management official and an insurance company adjuster were at the scene Monday surveying the damage. K. Chris Glidewell, director of University Risk Management, was at the scene most of the day Monday.
"We are going over the evidence and we hope to come to a complete damage estimate and a decision about where to go from here by the end of this week," Glidewell said.
University officials said late Monday a preliminary estimate shows that the damage will total approximately $1 million. A final dollar estimate and a decision whether to repair or replace the unit at 529 Cougar Village will come later.
The 30 students who were scheduled to live in the unit for the Fall Semester have been re-assigned to other space in the apartment complex.
This comes just one week before classes are scheduled to resume.