Lightning strikes spark house fires


Fires caused by lightning strikes kept fire fighters in Jerome Township busy Thursday evening. Above, crews from Jerome and Washington township fire departments work to extinguish an attic fire at a home on Cranberry Drive. (Photo submitted)

Firefighters in the southern portion of Union County were busy after a Thursday evening storm.
Jerome Township Fire Chief Douglas Stewart said his crews had “a busy night.”
In an email to The Journal-Tribune, Stewart wrote there were “two reported structure fires from lightning strikes during the storm.”
He said that despite the activity, there were no citizens or firefighters injured.
Stewart said Jerome Township crews were called to Cranberry Drive.
He wrote that when crews arrived they found a home “with a hole blown in the side of it from the lightning and a small fire in the attic.”
He said that within minutes of firefighters arriving at Cranberry Drive home, the department received a call regarding a home on Emelia Drive that had also been struck by lightning.
“Since Jerome had no other fire personnel available we had to redirect Concord Township to the Emelia Drive house and dispatch Pleasant Valley and additional crews from Washington to assist,” Stewart wrote.
He said that when crews arrived at the Emelia Drive home, they found a house with “a small hole in the side.”
Stewart said the hole was caused by a lightning strike.
The chief said both fires were “contained within about two hours.”
Next week is the National Lightning Safety Council’s National Lightning Safety Awareness Week.
According to the National Weather Service, lightning rods and the accompanying protection systems are designed to protect a house or building from a direct lightning strike and, in particular, a lightning-initiated fire. Lightning protection systems do not prevent lightning from striking the structure, but rather intercept a lightning strike. Lightning rods provide a conductive path for the harmful electrical discharge to follow and disperse the energy safely into the ground.
According to the National Weather Service, there are three main ways lightning enters structures: a direct strike, through wires or pipes that extend outside the structure or through the ground.
Once in a structure, lightning can travel through the electrical, phone, plumbing, and radio/television reception systems. Lightning can also travel through any metal wires or bars in concrete walls or flooring.
The National Weather Service recommends:
-Stay off corded phones. You can use cellular or cordless phones.
-Don’t touch electrical equipment such as computers, TVs or cords. You can use remote controls safety.
-Avoid plumbing. Do not wash your hands, take a shower or wash dishes.
-Stay away from exterior windows and doors that might contain metal components leading from outside your home to the inside.
-Stay off balconies, porches and out of open garages or car ports.
-Do not lie on concrete floors or lean against concrete walls.
-Protect your pets: Dog houses are not safe shelters. Dogs that are chained to trees or on metal runners are particularly vulnerable to lightning strikes.
-Protect your property: Lightning generates electric surges that can damage electronic equipment some distance from the actual strike. Typical surge protectors will not protect equipment from a lightning strike. Do not unplug equipment during a thunderstorm as there is a risk you could be struck.

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