A woman escaped and pets were evacuated after lightning struck a home in east Oak Ridge on Tuesday morning, sparking a fire and likely destroying the residence, authorities said.
The lightning strike was reported at 105 Albion Road at 9:39 a.m. Tuesday. The home is just north of Emory Valley Road and just west of Melton Lake Drive.
The lighting strike occurred roughly in the center of the home, and it started an attic fire that spread across the house.
The female resident was watching television and she felt it, said Gary Williamson, Oak Ridge Fire Department engineer and investigator. She got out of her chair to investigate and saw smoke coming out of outlets and vents. The woman, who was reported to be okay, went to a neighbor’s house.
Oak Ridge Fire Chief Darryl Kerley arrived quickly and reported that the fire was already through the roof, Williamson said.
Four dogs were evacuated from the home, and they are all safe, said Eric Rackard, ORFD battalion chief. A cat was taken to a veterinarian. There might be more pets to locate, Rackard said.
Firefighters have identified lightning as the preliminary cause of the fire, pending their investigation, Rackard and Williamson said. An initial check of a lightning strike map showed a lightning strike in the area. Firefighters will double-check that with a system that uses position coordinates.
Rackard said there were multiple lightning strikes as firefighters arrived. They were able to extinguish the Albion Road fire by about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. It was in the attic, above crews going in, so they had to use defensive firefighting measures, Rackard said. That meant firefighters had to stay outside until they were able to “knock down” the fire enough to allow crews to enter the home.
After they extinguished the fire, crews stayed another few hours to cool off hot spots. They used foam to help cool the fire in places they couldn’t access through the roof.
Rackard said attic fires are dangerous because crews can’t get to them. They have to fight the fire through eaves and use defensive measures. That makes firefighting difficult.
But firefighters don’t want the flames to fall on them, which could be deadly.
Rackard said the Albion Road fire went through the attic and fell into the house.
There was heavy smoke when firefighters arrived.
“It was so bad, you could hardly see the house,” Rackard said.
The fire was hot enough that the rain on Tuesday morning didn’t help extinguish it, Rackard said.
The value of the estimated loss hadn’t been determined as of lunchtime Tuesday. But the damage went into the basement of the split-level side of the house, Williamson said. He said some of the homeowner’s belongings may be salvageable.
Rackard said four fire engines, two rescue trucks, a tower truck, and two chiefs responded to the fire. So did 18 firefighters and two Anderson County ambulances.
Williamson said firefighters laid about 1,000 feet of line in four attack lines and 800-1,000 feet of a supply line off of two fire hydrants.
It’s at least the third fire reportedly started by a lightning strike in Oak Ridge since 2013 (see here and here). There was also a case in 2013 where a woman experienced chest pain after being near a window of a home when lightning hit in front of her.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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