ST. CHARLES – Barefoot, Mary Popiel on Wednesday afternoon stood outside her St. Charles home, which just moments before had been on fire.
As firefighters pulled shingles to ensure no fire remained, Popiel had one thought.
"It could have been way worse," she said.
She and her 14-year-old daughter were in her bedroom of the Persimmon Court house mid-afternoon when a neighbor pounded on the front door, alerting them to the fire, she said.
The neighbor, Julie White, said her 16-year-old daughter, Nina, noticed the dark smoke as they walked the family dog, a miniature poodle named Sadie.
Nina, who sat on a lawn near the fire-damaged home, said she thought it was odd to see smoke on such a warm day.
"Then we saw the flames," the teen said.
St. Charles Fire Chief Joe Schelstreet said firefighters limited the spread of the fire and spread tarps over the home to help minimize damage.
"We got here very quickly," he said.
Though an official cause wasn't determined as firefighters continued to check the roof for more embers, Schelstreet said fire officials were concentrating on an attic fan.
Meanwhile, Popiel – who White said seemed calmer than her – reflected on what could have been. The fire, she said, could have happened while her family slept or while they were away, or it could have gone unnoticed by neighbors.
"That could have collapsed on us," Popiel said. "Stuff can be replaced. We can't."