Lightning strikes twice, igniting simultaneous fires miles apart

Posted Aug. 07, 2014, at 5:47 a.m.

SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — Lightning from powerful thunderstorms that rolled through the region Wednesday night ignited a garage and barn in separate strikes less than four miles apart, Fire Chief George Gorman said.

The first fire was reported at 74 Emery’s Bridge Road at 7:32 p.m. Residents heard a loud crack just outside the house and smelled smoke coming from the garage soon afterward.

Homeowner Maurice Hudson used a garden hose to fight the fire and nearly had it out when the home lost electricity and the water pump failed. After his water ran out, the fire quickly spread through the garage.

“South Berwick Fire responded very quickly and saved the house,” Hudson said as firefighters tore into his garage to look for hidden flames.

Gorman said lightning struck a tall tree behind the house, traveled through the tree’s roots until it hit the concrete foundation and somehow traveled to the garage.

“The whole garage was nothing but fire” when crews arrived, the chief said.

As firefighters rushed to that blaze, most crews were diverted to 90 York Woods Road at 7:49 p.m. for a detached barn that caught fire and later burned to the ground. Crews prevented the fire from spreading to a home roughly 75 feet away.

South Berwick Lt. Charlie Carver said the barn was engulfed in flames by the time firefighters got there. They used high-pressure hoses to knock down the fire, which he said was under control within about 45 minutes.

Two-person hose crews continued to spray into the barn as other firefighters used picks and other tools to search for embers well past 9 p.m. A few feet from where the barn once stood, a tree appeared to have been split by the force of the lightning strike.

Nobody was home when the fire was reported.

One firefighter suffered minor injuries and was being evaluated at the scene. Carver did not identify the firefighter’s injuries or say what department he worked for.

Hudson was playing a guitar inside his Emery’s Bridge Road home when the lightning hit the tree about 15 feet from the house. He said he felt vibrations from the lightning travel through the guitar. Moments later, after smelling smoke, he opened the garage door and saw the fire.

It’s not clear how the lightning traveled into the garage, which was completely destroyed. A breezeway also was damaged by smoke and water. The main house sustained some smoke damage.

Crews from North Berwick, Berwick, Eliot, and Somersworth and Rollinsford, N.H., departments helped South Berwick’s split crew fight the barn fire. Somersworth and South Berwick fought the garage fire.

Staffing at both fires was sufficient with help from the other nearby departments, the chief said.

“To have two fires going at once,” Gorman said, “is very unusual,”

Distributed by MCT Information Services

 

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