Fire Started by Lightning Strike, Destroys Home

By Mallory Lane

Published 07/28 2014 05:25PM

Updated 07/28 2014 05:48PM

FERGUSON TOWNSHIP, CENTRE COUNTY - Investigators have confirmed a lightning strike started a fire, destroying a home in State College Sunday night.

The home on Shellers Bend in Ferguson Township is a total loss. The fire marshal on scene said the blaze started in the attic.

First responders on scene said it's one of the worst storm-related fires they've seen in a while.

"I could not see Blue Course Drive to drive," Centre Region Fire Director Steve Bair said. "When you could see in the lightning, you could see trees bent over and branches falling in front of the fire engine."

It's not a scenario Bair deals with often and it's one he hopes doesn't happen again any time soon.

"Even though it was a large volume of fire coming out of the roof in the attic space, I really couldn't see the fire until I was less than a block away, literally looking right at it," he said. "That's how hard it was raining."

The home is part of a four-unit condo. The three other homes have smoke and water damage.

Bair said there's not much you can do to prepare for or prevent a fire like this one.

"These are kind of freak things," he said. "Lightning can be beautiful, but it can be very destructive, obviously."

Bair recommends seeking shelter indoors during storms to stay safe.

WTAJ Chief Meteorologist Joe Murgo said the only thing unusual about Sunday's storm is how late in the season it came.

"The amount of lightning with it that made it seem loud along with the torrential downpours in populated areas grabbed the attention," Murgo said. "I won't say this is a rare event that we don't get. What I will say is the timing of the vent. We're usually out of severe weather season."

He said it shouldn't be too much longer until the stormy season is over.

"In summer, we usually have a weaker jet stream and we usually now have warm ground, but the atmosphere is also warm, so we're pulling out of thunderstorm season," Murgo said.

Fire officials remind folks if you do see a fire, to call 9-1-1 immediately.

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