Fire Marshal: 6 residential fires likely sparked by lightning; condo fire displaces six people

Possible lightning strike sets condo fire

HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - The Henrico County Fire Marshal believes several lightning strikes from Tuesday night’s storms are the cause of six residential structure fires and numerous downed power lines and trees.

Around 11:24 p.m. fire crews were called to the 10300 block of Trellis Crossing Lane for a report of smoke in the area.

Upon arrival, crews encountered heavy smoke pouring out of the roof and fire in the attic area.

“There were big flames at times and small flames,” said a neighbor. “I was afraid it was going to come over to our house.”

Henrico County Fire Marshal, Henry Rosenbaum, said they got the call from neighbor who reported smoke in the area.

“The residents who were on the outside heard the lightning and then saw the smoke shortly after and were able to start knocking on the doors to alert those residents to evacuate prior to us arriving,” he added.

8 displaced in Henrico after fire believed to have been caused by lightning.
8 displaced in Henrico after fire believed to have been caused by lightning. (Source: Pat Schmidt)

The Trellis Crossing community is made up of buildings consisting of four condominiums under one roof.

However, Rosenbaum believes how they were built is what prevent Tuesday’s fire from spreading to other units.

"The lightning struck one of the roofs, caused the fire to occur in that attic space, but because of the fire walls separating all four units, we had little to no damage in the other three units," he said.

Per the current building code, all residential structures are required to have a fire wall.

“These are elderly people and I know they were scared all together,” a neighbor said. “I think what happened with the fire walls helped them. It could have been a lot worse without them.”

Crews were able to contain the fire in a matter of roughly 20 minutes after they were able to get inside the condo once the roof collapsed.

Six people were displaced from their homes and are being helped by the American Red Cross.

Restoration crews were on site Wednesday afternoon placing tarps on some condo roofs affected by the fire.

“[It’s done] to prevent any further rain damage or any other environmental effects getting inside,” Rosenbaum said. “They’re really trying to protect the occupants’ belongings.”

Meanwhile, fire crews were also called to five other residential fires believed to be started by lightning strikes; two of those scenes left damage to the homes as well.

“There was damage to burnt wires or some type of small fire within the residence,” Rosenbaum said.

Firefighters also responded to several calls about downed power lines and tree impeding traffic, along with a tree on fire near a railroad, likely caused by a lightning strike.

"It's not uncommon to have that increased number of calls during that time of an electrical storm when it takes place," Rosenbaum said.

The Fire Marshal added most of the calls for service occurred during a two-hour window between 10 p.m. and midnight.

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