Lightning strike causes extensive damage to Columbus home

COLUMBUS, Ind. — Columbus Fire Department fire investigators have listed a lightning strike as the cause of a Tuesday evening house fire in the Breakaway Trails neighborhood on the city’s north side.

Firefighters were sent to 3757 Pawnee Trail at about 8:13 p.m. Tuesday after the homeowner discovered smoke and called 911, said Capt. Mike Wilson, Columbus Fire Department spokesman.

Firefighters arrived on the scene at approximately 8:17 p.m. and witnessed smoke coming from the roof eaves. Firefighters located the owner of the property outside of the home.

The homeowner told firefighters that he believed that the fire was somewhere on the second floor. After speaking to the homeowner, firefighters learned that no additional occupants were inside the two-story single family residence.

Firefighters found that the ground level of the home was clear of smoke. When firefighters climbed the stairway to the second floor, they were met with heavy smoke conditions and high heat, Wilson said. Firefighters searched the second floor and located heavy fire in the home’s laundry room.

The fire in the laundry room was quickly extinguished and firefighters accessed the attic to search for any fire extension. Using thermal imaging cameras capable of detecting heat and fire, no fire was located in the attic. Firefighters did find heavy charring to ceiling joists when firefighters removed drywall from the ceiling in the area that fire occurred. The fire was under control within 10 minutes of firefighter’s arrival on the scene, Wilson said.

The owner of the home told firefighters that he had left the home earlier in the evening. Upon his return, the homeowner heard the sound of smoke alarms just prior to entering the residence. The owner said that two dogs were on the second floor secured by a gate. After entering the residence, the owner found that both dogs had managed to escape from the second floor and were located on the first floor when the owner returned to his home. The dogs were uninjured.

Investigators determined that lightning struck the home and contributed as the cause of the fire. Heavy rain and lighting moved through the Columbus area just prior to the report of the fire, Wilson said.

The investigation revealed that neighbors in the area reported lightning a short time before the fire was reported. A neighbor adjacent to 3757 Pawnee Trail told investigators that his home’s ground fault indicator (GFI) electrical receptacles tripped following the lighting strike. Investigators found evidence that the lighting strike damaged a gas supply line to the home’s clothes dryer.

Investigators believe the natural gas-fed fire occurred after a portion of the gas supply line sustained electrical arcing damage in the laundry room. As a result of the fire, plastic water supply lines melted which led to water damage on the first floor and basement levels. All utilities to the home were disconnected by utility providers at the request of firefighters. The owners told firefighters that they will be staying with family members. According to property owners, the home is insured.

The official cause of fire has been ruled natural as a result of a lighting strike. Damages are estimated at approximately $100,000.

Agencies that assisted at the scene include the Columbus Police Department, Columbus Regional Health Emergency Medical Service, Columbus City Utilities, Duke Energy and Center Point Energy. No injuries were reported at the scene.