A lightning strike caused a house fire in Warren County the morning of July 5, investigators announced Friday.
The Warren County Department of Fire and Rescue Services and the Fire Marshal’s Office confirmed that a “cloud-to-ground contact lightning strike” set the house at 24 Markham Farm Road ablaze, the agencies state in a media release.
The Fire Marshal’s Office worked with the National Weather Service and other similar organizations to perform a detailed look into lightning strikes as a result of the significant thunderstorms in the area the evening of July 4, according to information from Fire and Rescue Services Chief Richard Mabie.
Fire Marshal Gerry Maiatico stated in the release that 95 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes contacted the ground within a three-mile radius of the Markham Fard Road home between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. July 4.
The investigation revealed that the most significant lightning strike hit the immediate area of the home at 7:33 p.m., according to information from Maiatico. The strike measured a peak current of 76.9 kiloamps, Maiatico states.
Investigators used lightning strike/ground contact technology and the information gleaned matched physical evidence found during the investigators, according to Maiatico.
A meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Sterling recalled Friday that he helped Maiatico with the investigation. Maiatico asked if the agency could tell if any lightning strikes occurred at the location of the house fire, meteorologist Kyle Pallozzi said by phone.
“I pulled up some lightning data that we get in and I looked and ... there were some lightning strikes, cloud-to-ground, that were pretty close to the location,” Pallozzi said. “So one was very close.”
The weather service receives data within a short time of a lightning strike, Pallozzi noted. He said 95 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes is a high number.
“I’d say it’s a lot of lightning,” Pallozzi said. “That can happen in the summer but that’s definitely a lot of lightning. That day there was a lot of lightning.”
Such an incident rarely occurs but proves that people should take seriously all severe weather advisories and warnings issued by the National Weather Service, the release from Mabie states.
The weather service considers a thunderstorm severe if it produces hail measuring at least 1 inch in diameter or wind gusts of 58 miles per hour, according to Mabie’s information.
The fire chief warns that every thunderstorm produces lightning that kills more people than tornadoes or hurricanes in some years, the release states. Heavy rain from thunderstorms can cause flash flooding. High winds can damage homes and blow down trees and utility poles, thus causing widespread power outages.
Every thunderstorm produces lightning, which kills more people some years than tornadoes or hurricanes. Heavy rain from thunderstorms can cause flash flooding and high winds can damage homes and blow down trees and utility poles, causing widespread power outages. Thunderstorms kill or injure people each year because they did not hear or ignored warnings, the release states.
The July 5 fire occurred while the house was vacant, according to officials. Firefighters arrived on the scene at the house in the Blue Mountain area and reported smoke coming from the attic and throughout the first floor, according to department information. Firefighters forced their way into the home and worked to put out the blaze and to search and rescue anyone inside.
Crew members sent a message soon after entering the house that the floor had collapsed and two firefighters fell through and into the basement, according to the department. Both firefighters came out of the basement and emergency medical technicians treated the crew members at the scene for non-life threatening injuries. A crew took both firefighters to Warren Memorial Hospital for further evaluation and they have since returned to work.
Mabie ordered a review of firefighters’ response to and an action plan for the incident as well as a “near miss” involving the injured firefighters. The Fire Marshal's Office and the department training division plan to complete a “significant incident review” and train all members on the findings, according to information from Mabie.