The DuPage County coroner has identified the victims of a fatal Naperville fire as Thomas and Janet Lambert.
The two were killed as a fire ripped through their home on Field Court on Dec. 18, causing the second floor to collapse into the basement.
Neighbors said Thomas Lambert, 57, was battling a brain tumor that made it difficult for him to get around in recent weeks and his wife Janet Lambert, 56, was blind.
The Lamberts had just recently invited friends over for a healing ceremony with a shaman, according to neighbor Shannon O’Brien.
She said neighbors had tried to rally around Thomas, a former psychologist, by raking leaves and bringing food.
“He was a nice guy he worked hard and when he was home he was running or taking care of his wife,” O’Brien said. “He was a good person.”
Just last month, Edward Hospital featured Thomas Lambert in a write-up about its brain tumor support group.
Although the tumor was growing, those who knew Thomas Lambert said he managed to stay upbeat and served as an inspiration to others facing the same diagnosis.
“He focused on what he could do, not on what he couldn’t do,” said Linda Conlin, a licensed clinical social worker at Edward Cancer Center.
Just before 7 a.m. Dec. 18, O’Brien was eating breakfast when her daughter said she believed the neighbor’s home was on fire. She saw a dog from the home in her front yard and took it inside.
“At that point the house was fully engulfed on the garage side,” O’Brien said.
Field Court resident Sean Burke awoke to the sound of emergency vehicles. At first he could see small flames, but within about 15 minutes the fire had grown.
“The blaze really took off and got really large,” he said.
He said he could hear firefighters talking over their radios that people were trapped upstairs and saw the awaiting ambulances.
“It was pretty obvious it wasn’t going to have a happy ending completely there,” he said.
About 10 minutes after their arrival, firefighters were forced to evacuate the home “due to the danger of structural collapse,” according to Bureau Chief Mark Thurow.
When it was safe for firefighters to re-enter the home, they found that the second floor had collapsed.
“(The second floor) had fallen through to the basement, basically,” Deputy Fire Chief Rick Sander said.
Three people survived the fire. A 56-year-old woman neighbors identified as Thomas Lambert’s sister who was staying with the family, an 84-year-old man and a 21-year-old man. The 21-year-old, who was initially transported to Edward Hospital in critical condition, remains hospitalized at Loyola University Medical Center.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but is not considered suspicious, according to Thurow. He confirmed there were oxygen tanks in the home, but said via email such tanks are rarely the source of the fire, although “oxygen fuels the fire and allows more rapid combustion.”
He also said damage was estimated at more than $200,000 and the house will be torn down after crews are finished investigating the rubble.