Witnesses report lightning strikes nearby before massive fire burns home in St. George

ST. GEORGE — Lightning strikes were observed by several witnesses near a large home just before it caught fire during a dramatic thunderstorm Thursday night.

Firefighters battle a massive house fire that caught fire during a thunderstorm in St. George, Utah, Aug. 3, 2017 | Photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

St. George Fire responded to the blaze at 2284 E. 3970 South in St. George at approximately 8:53 p.m.

“The city was experiencing a significant thunderstorm coming in from the south,” St. George Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Taylor said. “We’ve had multiple reports from neighbors in the area of very close lightning strikes.”

Watch video top of this report.

Arriving crews observed a portion of the home’s roof on fire, Taylor said.

The homeowners were on vacation at the time of the fire, and the house was unoccupied besides a pet dog in the backyard patio. The dog was rescued and turned over to relatives of the homeowners for care.

Firefighters initially entered the house to try to extinguish the fire from inside, Taylor said; however, they had to leave as the fire’s reach extended.

Firefighters battle a massive house fire that caught fire during a thunderstorm in St. George, Utah, Aug. 3, 2017 | Photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

While the fire at first appeared to be doused on the roof, it soon flared up again, producing large flames that quickly jumped from one side of the home to the other.

Flames were visible inside the house and garage area.

Firefighters were forced to fight the blaze defensively from outside the home as it quickly became unsafe to enter.

The firefighting effort was complicated by the large size of the home, Taylor said, as crews worked to isolate flames hidden throughout the spacious structure.

The building actively burned for several hours while firefighters sprayed it with copious amounts of water.

Significant amounts of smoke wafting from the blaze triggered a temporary evacuation of nearby homes.

Firefighters battle a massive house fire that caught fire during a thunderstorm in St. George, Utah, Aug. 3, 2017 | Photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

The fire department took great care to make sure adjacent homes did not also catch fire, and no other properties were damaged.

“There is significant structural damage to the roof, the second floor and down into the first floor,” Taylor said of the burn damage.

Much of the home’s roof appeared to have collapsed by the time flames died down.

No assessment of estimated monetary damage had been made at the time this report was taken.

While the fire department has ruled out the fire as suspicious in origin, the exact cause of the blaze had yet to be pinpointed, though lightning is being considered as a possibility.

“We get lightning hitting homes. Perhaps in the past three years, we’ve had – maybe three out of five years – we’ve had lightning strikes hit homes,” Taylor said. “Many times they don’t start fires but occasionally they do.”

A crowd gathers to watch firefighters battle a massive house fire that caught fire during a thunderstorm in St. George, Utah, Aug. 3, 2017 | Photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

No one was injured, and crews were rotated to ensure optimal health. Medical personnel from Gold Cross Ambulance performed frequent checks on the firemen.

“They performed very well,” Taylor said of the Gold Cross responders. “They check status of our firefighters to make sure they didn’t over heat and make sure we were still in good condition to go back to work.”

Officers from St. George Police Department and Volunteers in Public Safety also responded to assist with traffic control and to ensure public safety as a massive crowd of people converged to watch the firefighting effort.

This report is based on preliminary information provided by emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.

Email: jwitham@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!

Posted in Flood and Fire, Local, NewsTagged , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply