COLUMBIA, Ill. – A devastating overnight fire destroyed the home at Charlotte Avenue in the Stonegate Estates subdivision of a well-known local car dealer George "Skip" Weber IV, and his wife, Lori.

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Columbia Fire Protection District Chief Mike Roediger said Tuesday morning the fire began around 2:15 a.m. Monday.

When firefighters arrived the structure was fully event, the Columbia Fire Protection District Chief Roediger reported. Neighboring fire agencies were also called to assist the Columbia Fire team. Prairie Du Pont, Mehlville, Dupo, and Waterloo Fire Departments assisted Columbia, the chief said. It took a few hours to extinguish the blaze with the group battling the fire together.

George and Lori were able to get out of the home safely and their children were also not present, but reportedly came to the scene to console their parents.

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Roedgier said the Illinois State Fire Marshal is investigating the blaze, but Chief Roediger said there was no reason to believe anything of suspicious nature occurred.

"We have turned it over to the family and the insurance company now," he said. "The entire house was destroyed, the front wall and two side walls are still there, but the rest was destroyed. It was one of the largest structure fires we have been to in three or four years."

The fire also claimed the lives of two of the Weber family pets.

The chief said the firefighters used a hydrant in front and because of the severity of the fire even pumped water from a swimming pool in the back to battle the blaze.

The chief said the firefighters know George and his family well and they have always done a lot for the Columbia community and the entire region with their business and civic contributions.

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