TIPPECANOE (WJER) (July 25, 2023) – Freeport’s assistant fire chief says a lightning strike led to the fire that leveled the former Westchester General Store and displaced a family early Tuesday morning.
Jason Anderson says it was first reported around 12:35 a.m. at the building at the intersection of Westchester Road SE and state routes 342 and 258.
He says half the building is the former general store, which hasn’t operated in about two years, and the other half is a residence.
He says one of the residents called 9-1-1 to report the lightning strike. When firefighters arrived, there was fire showing on the exterior wall of the second floor.
Anderson says crews initially went inside the building to fight the fire but had to exit when the fire spread to the ceiling and roof.
He says everyone is safe, but the damage is extensive. He described the building as a total loss, with second floor fire damage and first floor water damage. He thinks some collectables, knick-knacks, and other items from inside could be salvaged.
Anderson says nine departments responded to the fire, shuttling 90 tankers of water to the site that they had drawn from a creek. They were on scene for nine hours. The roads were closed for most of that time.