Lightning strikes spark more house fires in Central Indiana

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INDIANAPOLIS — It can happen in a flash — lightning strikes a home and sparks a fire.

Several homes in central Indiana went up in flames during our stormy week, including two homes in Zionsville Tuesday night.

Restoration crews began cleaning up the family’s home in the 9400 block of Greenthread Drive in Zionsville. Firefighters say a neighbor across the street saw smoke from the house and called 911.

An hour later, crews responded to an attic fire in the 3500 block of Flagstone Drive. Both families were able to get out okay.

“Every time I hear a storm like that comes through, I’m just like, ‘Gosh,'” said Nancy Martin, who lives nearby. “This is not an easy thing to go through.”

Martin and her son drove by the damaged home in hopes of offering some advice. They lost their home by lightning three years ago.

“It was in the middle of the night and I was lying in bed watching this incredible lightning which I used to think was beautiful,” she said. “It struck our chimney and these river rocks came crashing through our bedroom window.”

Experts say there are ways to protect your family and home. Some insurance companies suggest installing a whole-house surge protector to even a lightning protection system that can cost about $2,500 to $3,500.

The lightning rods neither attract or repel a strike but produces a path for the super-charged bolt to safely run from the top of the house to the ground.

“It localizes the strike and it goes down the rod and on to the conductor cables and then into the ground,” said Mark Benham of Capitol Lightning Protection Company.

For Nancy, she says the biggest peace of mind is having the right insurance plan. She also recommends one that allows you to pick your own contractor.

“Check your policy. Just because it says full replacement cost, doesn’t necessarily mean that,” she said.

Lightning Safety Awareness Week is from June 23-29. Here are some things to avoid during a storm, according to the National Weather Service:

  • Don’t use corded phones: Using a corded phone during a thunderstorm is one of the leading causes of indoor lightning injuries. However, it IS safe to use cordless or cell phones as long as they are not being charged.
  • Stay away from windows and doors: Sitting on an open porch to watch a thunderstorm is also dangerous. It is best to be in an interior room during a thunderstorm.
  • Don’t touch electrical equipment or cords: Any device that uses electricity (e.g. computers, televisions, household appliances, etc.) is susceptible to a lightning strike. Electrical surges caused by lightning can damage electronics (even at some distance from the actual strike), and a typical surge protector will do little to protect the device (or the person using it) if lightning should strike. So consider unplugging certain appliances or electronics, but for your own safety do this BEFORE the storm arrives.
  • Avoid plumbing: Metal plumbing and the water inside are both very good conductors of electricity. Therefore, do not wash your hands or dishes, take a shower or bath, do laundry, etc. during a thunderstorm.
  • Refrain from touching concrete surfaces: Lightning can travel through the metal wires or bars in concrete walls and flooring, such as in the basement or garage.
  • If inside a vehicle: Roll the windows up and avoid contact with any conducting paths leading to the outside of the vehicle (e.g. metal surfaces, ignition, portable electronic devices plugged in for charging, etc.).