Lightning strike starts fire in Steuben County, destroys family business

Local News

STEUBEN COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) — Tuesday morning storms ripped through northeast Indiana creating strong winds, heavy rains, and lots of lightning.

Around 3:30 a.m. Eric and Rachel Erman were woken up by lightning. Soon after a glow of red was outside their bedroom window.

“My wife said the field was on fire,” Eric Erman said. “Then she goes ‘the shop is on fire’ and I pretty much took off in a dead run.”

The shop was E & R Restorations housed in Erman’s barn on Kimble Road in Steuben County. The car restoration business started as a hobby for Eric Erman and over the past 15 years grew, employing six people. However, on Tuesday morning lightning struck the top of the roof, starting a fire.

“It had really just started by the time I got down the hill but it was taking off fast,” Eric Erman said. “One of my customer’s 68 Camaro, he had it since high school, I went in, took a chain, and pulled it out. I grabbed what I could and then I started to get burned on my hand.”

E & R Restorations

Several local fire departments soon arrived along with Erman’s employees. After more than three hours the fire was out, but the 1885 barn was a total loss. That’s when the community started to show up.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Eric Erman said. “It’s been around a really long time. The fact that my shop is gone, my livelihood is gone, the memory of my kids out their in diapers sanding when they were little, sorry. But I mean the way the community came around me you know it feels like it was more than I deserve.”

Erman says that over the past few days people have shown up with food and to lend a helping hand. Other area businesses have offered their services to help clean up and try to get the car restoration company back in business.

Erman hopes to rebuild but learned insurance will not cover the cost. That’s when one family friend started a GoFundMe* for the family, something that took Erman by surprise.

“I’ve cried more these last few days than I have in my entire life,” Erman said. “I help people and it’s hard to ask for help. I just can’t thank everyone enough.”

The Erman family says they are hoping to rebuild.

* does not assure that the monies or donations deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a donation, you should consult your own advisers and otherwise proceed at your own risk.

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