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Daughter says lightning sparked fire, destroyed Ornelas’ home gym

Tyler restaurant, banquet hall burn overnight
Tyler restaurant, banquet hall burn overnight(KLTV/KTRE)
Updated: Mar. 2, 2021 at 11:17 AM CST
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - The owner of a multi-generational home is saddened by what a Monday morning fire took, but is grateful for what survived.

At approximately 3:30 a.m. Monday, a fire was reported at a home in the 2500 block of Alta Mira Dr. According to homeowner Becky Wangner, lightning struck the multipurpose gym and storage building behind her house, igniting a fire. By the time firefighters arrived on the scene, the entire structure had already become engulfed in flames and collapsed.

Tyler restaurant, banquet hall burn overnight
Tyler restaurant, banquet hall burn overnight(Viewer photo)

Five engines and a ladder company, along with a battalion chief and an investigator responded to the two-alarm fire. All units were clear from the scene at approximately 6:00 a.m.

Wangner, daughter of Joseph and Louise Ornelas, said the structure had been in place since the ’90s when her mother commissioned its construction. She said the memories associated with that building are “priceless.”

A lightning bolt struck the gymnasium and storage area at the former home of Joseph and Louise...
A lightning bolt struck the gymnasium and storage area at the former home of Joseph and Louise Ornelas early Monday morning. The fire resulted in a total loss of the structure.(Viewer photo)

“So many memories were made there — family reunions, my grandmother’s and my mother’s 90th birthday parties, baby showers, sock hops, wedding showers, Wahoo tournaments, and countless hours of kids playing basketball. The memories are priceless,” Wangner said in a Facebook post. “But in the end all the ‘stuff’ will go up in smoke anyway. The water pressure in Tyler is still not strong enough for the fire hoses to do any good. So God did it himself! He sent another torrential rain to put out the fire and save the house and storage building. I cherish all the memories we had in this place. That is a true gift! Grateful!”

A gymnasium and storage area were destroyed in a fire Monday morning.
A gymnasium and storage area were destroyed in a fire Monday morning.(Viewer photo)

Louise and Joseph Ornelas were well known for their locally-focused philanthropy. Along with supporting the educational institutions, the Ornelas’ also provided support and donations to charities in East Texas. They contributed to organizations including the Salvation Army, Hospice of East Texas, Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels, PATH and the Literacy Council of Tyler.

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