Lightning blamed for three structure fires Sunday night

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Updated: 8/12/2013 6:28 pm
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CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee(WDEF) - Fire investigators believe lightning may have caused a house fire on the 200 block of Bass Road Sunday night.

Firefighters saw visible smoke and flames as they responded to the scene from Station 13 on Brainerd Road.

The house was divided up into four apartment units. Only one was occupied and that resident got out safely.

Battalion Chief Charles Patton said the firefighters initially tried to fight the fire offensively from the inside, but when flames broke through the roof, he ordered the firefighters out of the building due to the increased threat of falling debris.

A couple of extra fire companies were called to bring in extra firefighters and equipment. It took the firefighters more than an hour to get the blaze under control. No injuries were reported.

An estimate on the dollar loss was not available, but the house was considered a total loss. 

Lightning is also blamed on a late night fire Collegedale. It happened on the 8000 block of Ashview Circle just before 10 P.M. Sunday.

The home owner initially reported smoke coming out of the air registers.  She called back and reported black smoke out the registers and fire visible in the attic. Firefighter contained the blaze within 10 minutes. Investigators said the damage was worth $20,000.

Hamilton County EMS spokesperson Amy Maxwell said Sunday nights lightning fires put mutual aid from various agencies to a real test.

"We've always had a great response from all these agencies but sometimes we do have events where other areas are being affected at the same time and we saw that last in the Collegedale area," Maxwell said.

The Hampton Inn Hotel in Ringgold also experienced a small fire when lightning struck the roof multiple times. Hotel engineer Brian Reeves was called in to help with evacuations when he noticed mother nature unleashing her fury on the hotel.

"We actually saw the lightning hitting the building four or five good strikes we saw after it got hit previously," Reeves said

Lightning strike were occurring while guests were trying to evacuate, leaving Reeves to worry about the safety of everyone involved.

"I'm was worried about the guest. Make sure everyone is out and safe," Reeves said.

Hotel maintenance crews are working around the clock to restore electrical systems that were knocked out during the lightning strikes.

"All the computer systems are knocked out. We can't make reservations. We can't contact any guest who had reservations to let them know not to show up," Reeves said.

Administrative staff at that Hampton Inn Hotel say things should be back to normal by the end of the week.

Firefighters also responded to a fire at Bentco Office Supplies on the 1500 block of Stuart Street in Chattanooga. When crews arrived they noticed light smoke was showing from the rear of the building.

The firefighters had to force their way into the building and once inside, they found heavy smoke toward the back of the building.

Captain Ashley May said the firefighters could not find any flames as they searched the building, but when they switched to thermal imaging cameras, they located fire on the roof, under the rubber pad and foam used to cover the building.
Firefighters used chainsaws and other cutting tools to gain access to the blaze in the roof. Once they see where the fire was, they extinguished it quickly.

The business was closed for the day and was unoccupied.

No injuries were reported and investigators believe the cause of the fire appears to be accidental, most likely from an electrical malfunction.


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