Area departments respond to fires, downed trees from Thursday night storm

  • The charred wall and radiator at 39 Maple St. in Northfield after a lightning strike Thursday evening caused an electrical surge to travel from the wall’s electrical outlet to the nearby metal radiator. Contributed Photo/Northfield Fire Department

Staff Writer
Published: 8/13/2021 12:37:40 PM

A sudden storm Thursday resulted in multiple area fire departments responding to calls for lightning strikes, with some of them causing structure fires, and downed trees late that evening and into early Friday morning.

According to Greenfield Fire Chief Robert Strahan, his department received the call for a first-alarm fire at 431 Green River Road at around 7 p.m. Thursday. The fire was caused by a lightning strike, and resulted in minor damage to the single-family home. The residents were home at the time and escaped safely with no injuries reported.

“Lightning struck the house, or an area near the house,” Strahan reported Friday morning. “There was damage to the exterior of the building, and it started a fire on the inside of the building.”

Green River Road was temporarily closed to traffic while firefighters responded to the scene. Strahan said his department requested an engine from Turners Falls. The Colrain Fire Department also responded and the Deerfield Fire District covered the Greenfield Fire Station.

“The fire was contained to the room of origin, and there was smoke damage throughout the house,” Strahan said.

While lightning strikes are not the most common cause of fires, Strahan said he has responded to a few such calls across Franklin County throughout his tenure.

“There have been severe thunderstorms that have led numerous times to lightning strikes near or on houses,” he said.

Similarly, in Northfield, multiple emergency calls started coming in at 5 p.m. Thursday, including for a lightning strike to a home at 39 Maple St. According to Northfield Fire Chief Floyd “Skip” Dunnell III, the multiple calls resulted in no significant damage. The lightning strike blew out electrical outlets in the home, but did not cause a fire.

“It scorched the outlets, and that was the extent of the damage,” Dunnell said.

He explained that lightning “is always going to try and seek ground.” In this instance, the lightning entered the home’s electrical system and blew out some electrical outlets. Seeking somewhere to ground, Dunnell said, most of the electrical charge dissipated to a radiator in the kitchen next to an outlet.

After responding to this call, the Northfield Fire Department received a report of a microburst in the area of Fisher Road, Old Wendell Road and Four Mile Brook Road that toppled numerous trees and downed electrical wires at roughly 7:30 p.m.

Dunnell said firefighters “cut their way through” the downed trees on Four Mile Brook Road and saw two trees had also fallen on a house. Firefighters secured the scene at the home, with Dunnell reporting there was “just a little bit of roofing” damage, “nothing structural.” He said the homeowners were not home at the time but were returning Friday.

At 2:30 a.m. Friday morning, Dunnell said the Northfield Fire Department responded to calls for more trees and wires down on South Mountain Road. Then, closer to 4 a.m., a Northfield engine responded as mutual aid for a structure fire in Orange.

Orange Fire Chief James Young said his department responded to a second-alarm fire at 31 Lois St. at 3:51 a.m. Friday morning with mutual aid. The scene was cleared after nearly four hours, at roughly 9:30 a.m. The cause of the fire was still under investigation as of 1 p.m. Friday.

According to Young, the fire occurred at a single-family mobile home, and spread to “consume a couple of out-buildings or sheds on the same property, as well as two vehicles.” The fire did not spread to neighboring properties.

The Orange fire caused extensive damage, making the mobile home uninhabitable at this time, according to Young. No injuries were reported and the homeowners were not home at the time of the fire.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.


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