(Editor's Note: This article was originally published March 01, 2011.)
Updated: 3:30 p.m., March 1
Peggy Gargiulo and her daughter were settling into an evening at home during Monday's stormy weather when she heard a big boom.
Gargiulo said she wasn't sure what the sound was, or where it came from exactly, but figured the house alarm must be on the fritz. It sounded, and then went off, and then came back on again.
There was a crackle of light at an electricity source, so she went to investigate. Her daughter said she smelled smoke.
"I didn't think it was as massive as it was," she said Tuesday, taking a break from retrieving her family's soggy, smokey and burned possessions.
Even after she climbed the back stairs toward the attic, Gargiulo said she was still uncertain about the fire's ferocity. Then it became more apparent, it was time to get out the house.
"The closet in the attic was in flames, big flames," she said.
A passer-by alerted officials at about 6 p.m. after seeing smoke pouring from the roof of the home located in the 1300 block of Tree Lane in Snellvile, according to Capt. Tommy Rutledge, public information officer for Gwinnett Fire. Firefighters arrived to the scene at approximately 6:07 p.m., according to Rutledge's incident report.
By then, heavy, black smoke was billowing from the roof and engulfing much of the attic space. Fire crews hurried to work, competing against heavy rain and dangerous lightening.
Fire officials believe it was an apparent lightening strike during Monday's severe and stormy weather that sparked the blaze at the large, two-story Snellville home.
According to Rutledge's incident report, Gargiulo "stated that she heard a loud boom and saw sparks from a power source."
Gargiulo tried dousing flames with a fire extinguisher, but she was unsuccessful. She suffered minor exposure to smoke, the report stated.
In addition to the advanced nature of the fire when crews arrived, intense lightning prevented firefighters from immediately using an aerial ladder to reach flames because of the potential for electrocution, officials said.
Hidden spots in the home's attic helped make putting out the blaze a little more challenging, not to mention the weather, fire officials said.
Crews worked until shortly after midnight to douse any hot spots.
Gargiulo said the home is a complete loss, and that most of their possessions are gone. Her daughter -- a student at Brookwood High School -- lost most of her things. She was able to salvage a few pageant trophies and sashes.
"It's a devastating thing," Gargiulo said.
Still, the family is grateful. One of the family's pets, Big Bertha, a six-year old German shepherd mix, was able to escape the fire, twice. She left the home once with her owners, following the daughter to a nearby home, but at some point she trotted back over and back inside. Two hours later, she came out again -- sooty, but unscathed.
Another dog, Brownie and the family's bunny were also saved. A firefighter found the bunny inside, and Brownie had come up with her owners. A calico cat is still unaccounted for, Peggy Gargiulo said.
Gargiulo said the family built the home in 2003, and are now looking to piece things back together. She was thankful to her friends and family, who came by Tuesday to help with the cleanup.
"They're really doing a great job," she said. "It's really overwhelming."