Lightning ruled as the cause of High Knob fire

Warren County Department Fire and Rescue and the Office of the Fire Marshal have determined that lightning strikes within the High Knob community of Front Royal caused a fire that destroyed a three-story home Monday night.

Fire Marshal Gerry Maiatico indicated Thursday that, between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Monday, four lightning strikes hit the ground close to the house located at 901 Windy Way.

Crews from Warren County responded to the fire at 9:45 p.m. Monday night and were able to get the fire under control within 30 minutes of arrival.

Thomas and Anne Lloyd, the owners of the home, were out of state visiting family at the time of the fire.

Maiatico noted that the family has returned to the area and that their insurance company is looking to find a temporary living arrangement for them.

For the investigation, Maiatico said that his department worked with the National Weather Service as well as a company called Weather Fusion to determine confirm the cause.

“There’s technology that records geographical locations where lightning strikes make ground contact,” he said, noting that the weather service analyzed this as well as data from the Doppler radar.

Maiatico said the weather service was able to tell them “the likelihood of lightning in the area at the time of that event.”

With this technology, Maiatico said they were able to pinpoint a radius around the house where the four strikes hit using data they purchased from Weather Fusion.

In addition to weather data, Maiatico said they also reached out to local residents in the area and neighbors within the High Knob community.

He said that the neighbors and witnesses “were pretty consistent with general time frames in which they had experienced or witnessed a lightning strike in the area of the home.”

Maiatico noted that they are not exactly sure what the lightning may have struck that sparked the fire.

“It could be a multitude of different things,” he said, noting that they are now working with the family’s insurance company — as well as investigators hired by the insurers — to pinpoint what may have sparked the fire.

Maiatico added, “That’s one thing so far, in the investigation, that we’re not able to identify. Did the lightning physically strike the home? Did the lightning strike nearby the home and cause an electrical malfunction?”

Along with announcing the cause of the fire, the department also issued a list of safety tips for residents to consider in cases of extreme weather or thunderstorms.

“This is something that needs to be taken serious,” Maiatico said. “These summer storms are fast-moving … and they can change rapidly, and people need to take that into consideration.”

The tips include:

• Watching for weather forecasting updates on the local news, social media and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radios.

• Moving indoors in the event of thunder, avoiding electrical equipment and outlets and keeping away from windows.

• Avoiding open spaces, isolated trees, high ground and metallic objects such as fences.

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com