Schaumburg family displaced by fire

As Joann Annarella watched firefighters dig through her family's burned belongings Sunday afternoon, she would not let the scene stop her from praising two strangers who may have saved her life.

Annarella, who had lived in that Schaumburg house since Dec. 14, 1978, was in her kitchen when she heard someone pounding on the front door alerting her to a roaring fire inside the attached garage.

“It was Ruth and Skip Barchfeld,” she said. “They saved my life. They are the heroes.”

Annarella safely bolted from the house, but could do little to stop the flames.

By the time firefighters put out the blaze on the 200 block of Kingsport Drive, the garage was torched, Joann Annarella's car was destroyed and an upstairs bedroom and attic were gutted.

The two-story house is the first home the Annarellas ever purchased.

More than an hour after the fire had started, friends were comforting Annarella as she struggled to reach her husband Joe and son Mike to tell them the horrible news.

“Put a smoke detector in your garage. That would be my advice,” she said.

Neighbors on the block gathered behind police tape just after 4 p.m. as firefighters worked to put out the fire.

“We ran outside and we saw it all in flames,” said 17-year-old Priya Patel, who lives on the block. “They made us back up because they thought the car was going to explode.”

About 30 Schaumburg firefighters brought the fire under control in approximately 10 minutes while pumping water onto the flames and a neighboring house.

“The wind was coming from the east, and the fire was so large we were concerned that the house next door was going to start on fire,” said Batallion Chief Rick Anderson.

The next-door neighbors spotted the flames from their window and took precautions.

“My brother brought all the documents out from our house,” said 17-year-old Christian Cuevas, who lives next door.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation Sunday night, but investigators were certain that it started in the garage, Anderson said.

The displaced Annarellas are staying with family in the area.

Anderson estimated the damages at more than $200,000.

  Schaumburg firefighters covered in ice come out of the garage at a house fire on the 200 block of Kingsport Drive in Schaumburg on Sunday. George LeClaire/