Chesterfield man says he was nearly electrocuted when neighbor’s house was struck by lightning

Published: Aug. 15, 2019 at 11:46 PM EDT
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CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WWBT) - The severe thunderstorms Thursday caused problems for some families in Chesterfield and Henrico after lightning struck their homes, sparking two house fires.

Alex Ayala III is a Chesterfield homeowner who calls moment the storms began, the shock of a lifetime.

“I work from home and I was talking to a customer and then lighting hit the house,” Ayala said.

Ayala got quite a jolt from the strike, which struck his neighbor’s home and sparked a fire. The electricity from the strike surged through his home and came out of his laptop while he was using it.

“I saw sparks coming from where my headset connects to the laptop," Ayala said. “Sparks shot out and immediately I just felt it in my ear right here and I jumped up because I thought at that point I was done."

The initial strike knocked out Ayala’s power, but it was when he went outside to assess the damage that he says his jaw dropped.

Alex Ayala said sparks came out of the laptop and he felt a ringing in his ears after a...
Alex Ayala said sparks came out of the laptop and he felt a ringing in his ears after a neighbor's house was struck by lightning.

“It was just plumes of smoke just everywhere,” Ayala said.

Ayala’s home was OK, but the house across the street from his in the 4800 block of Shepards Mill Drive went up in flames.

“Even from here, it was like the smog was so thick that I was choking on it,” Ayala said.

Ayala captured those tense moments on his phone just minutes before the Chesterfield Fire Department arrived around 3:20 p.m. Thursday to put out the flames.

Fire crews had the flames under control just after 4:06 p.m., but by then the damage was done. Firefighters threw charred chunks of insulation and drywall from the third floor window, proof of the extensive damage to the attic.

A family of four was displaced from their home, but they were not present at the time of the fire. They will be assisted by the Red Cross. Chesterfield fire officials said there were no injuries.

Crews are still investigating the exact cause of the fire, but the lightning strike is suspected to be the cause.

Similar fires flared up around the greater Richmond area following this Thursday afternoons thunderstorms.

In eastern Henrico, fire crews responded around 3:47 p.m. to the 200 block of Linstead Road flames as flames tore through the the roof of a home after a lightning strike, displacing a family of six who escaped from the home. That family will be assisted by the Red Cross.

One firefighter was transported to the hospital for evaluation of suspected heat exhaustion.

Back in Chesterfield, Ayala said he’s counting his blessings that no one was seriously hurt.

“I’ve never come this close to being electrocuted and seeing someone’s home in flames,” Ayala said. “That’s a blessing because it could’ve been a lot worse.”

While it’s impossible to totally avoid acts of nature like this, the Henrico Fire Department said having a working smoke alarm is usually your best defense against any fire in your home.

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