Million-dollar house burns to ground
By MARCUS CONSTANTINO
Daily Mail Staff
A Putnam County man and his family escaped death early Monday morning when their million-dollar Winfield home was apparently struck by lightning and burned to the ground.
Mihai Istrate, 50, woke up to the sound of a loud thunder boom Monday morning, followed by blaring smoke detectors. He was able to get his wife, seven-year-old son and three dogs safely out of the house, but not much else.
“I took my son out, because he was sleeping and his bedroom was filled with smoke, this kind of choking smoke,” Istrate said. “We tried to grab some pictures but my wife — she just got two albums, and the rest is gone. We regret this the most because those memories will never come back.”
Mihai Istrate owns European Flooring, a business which he ran from an office in the home. Wife Pam Istrate is a mortgage broker. Their 7.000-square-foot home featured custom floors, stairways and cabinets, and a two-car garage; Mihai estimates their home of 10 years was worth more than $1 million.
Jared Summers of the Winfield Volunteer Fire Department arrived on the scene after the fire call came in about 3:30 a.m. Monday. He said the home was fully engulfed in flames when he arrived, and the rural location of the home — about a half-mile off Blue Lick Road — made it difficult for firefighters to fight back the flames.
He said firefighters had to take a different route to the home because of a slip in Rocky Step Road. He estimates that tacked on “every bit of 10 to 15 minutes” to his station’s response time to the fire.
Once the fire trucks arrived, they had to drive back and forth on the narrow gravel road for more water; at times, they had no water to fight the fire with as trucks went back and forth.
“Even if we would have arrived quicker, without the water supply, we wouldn’t have been able to do much with it,” Summers said.
Summers said he contacted the state Department of Highways about the road slip about two months ago, and that the slip has gotten progressively worse since then. He said he finally received a response while on the scene of the fire Monday morning, but was not given a timeline of when the road would be fixed.
Mihai was able to push a 2014 Chevrolet Corvette out of his garage and out of harm’s way with the help of Teays Valley firefighters before the fire got to the garage. Mihai tried to save a few other personal belongings from his office, but the smoke was too thick.
He credits smoke detectors with saving his family’s life. He said they are often taken for granted, and that batteries for smoke detectors are expensive and a hassle to install, but he fears his losses would have been much greater without working smoke detectors.
“I’m definitely thankful to have the alarm system,” Mihai said. “They save lives. Maybe they saved our lives, too.
“When I went in and grabbed him from the bed and took him out ... he’s seven years old, so in this kind of smoke for two or three minutes, he’s gone,” Mihai said of his son.
He said he hopes to find a temporary home for his family soon, and that he intends on building another home on the same property. He says he may consider installing a sprinkler system in the new home, but admitted there’s not much he could have done to anticipate what happened to his home.
“In two years hopefully I’ll have another one built here and go forward, and this will just look like one, big crazy accident,” Mihai said.
Contact writer Marcus Constantino at 304-348-1796 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at www.twitter.com/amtino.