A Thursday morning fire possibly started by a lightning strike likely destroyed a home in west Oak Ridge and caused a few hundred thousand dollars in damage, authorities said.
The residents of the home at 118 Graceland Road knew their home had been hit by lightning at about 4:30 a.m. Thursday, Oak Ridge Fire Department Chief Darryl Kerley said. They heard the strike and found siding blown off the side of their house. They used a ladder to climb on the roof and check the home. Then, they re-checked it later before the man who lived there went to work.
But at about 7:45 a.m. Thursday, neighbor Chris Wetherall reported the roof of the house was on fire. The female resident, Yvonne McClellan, remained asleep inside, Kerley said.
Wetherall went to the burning home and banged on the door until McClellan woke up and answered the door, Kerley said. Wetherall moved a pickup truck out of the home’s garage and turned off the power. He took McClellan next door to his house, where she was evaluated by the fire department and Anderson County Emergency Medical Services.
“The fire is under investigation, but is believed to have been started by a lighting strike,” Kerley said.
He said the fire could have smoldered for about two to three hours.
Kerley said about half the roof, which was completely in flames by the time 911 was called, has been burned off the house, which is near Gum Hollow Road on the west end of town. He said it could cost $400,000 to tear down the home and rebuild it.
The home is still standing and parts of it weren’t hurt by the fire, but most of the furniture has been damaged by smoke and water, Kerley said. However, firefighters were able to save many valuables, the chief said.
One firefighter, Gary Williamson, was taken to the hospital with chest discomfort and shortness of breath. He was treated and later released, Kerley said.
On Friday, Kerley said Williamson is fine and suffered from dehydration and stress. He had just come on shift at the time of the strenuous Thursday morning fire and hadn’t had any fluids or food, Kerley said.
The chief said the Graceland Road home was located up a long, steep driveway, and the access around the home to fight the fire was difficult. Three fire engines, one rescue truck, a tower truck, three chief officers, and 22 firefighters responded to the fire.
Kerley said residents who believe their house has been hit by lightning should call the fire department, although if a fire is smoldering, firefighters may not always see it.
There have been several home fires caused by lightning strikes in Oak Ridge in the past few years, or about one fire per year, Kerley said.