CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — As storm threats continue in Central Virginia, fire personnel are warning residents of the dangers of lightning fires.
This comes after two lightning-strike-related fires were reported in Chesterfield County on Tuesday, one of which forced two residents out of their home on Brickhaven Drive.
“In this incident, luckily, nobody was home, so nobody was injured,” Assistant Fire Chief John Boatwright told 8News on the scene of the Brickhaven Drive fire. “Property can be replaced, but family can’t. So, again, have working smoke detectors. Be vigilant, especially during the summer months.”
Members of Chesterfield County Fire & EMS also responded Tuesday to a fire believed to be caused by a lightning strike on Belmont Road. In that incident, first responders said a shed was impacted, but no one was injured.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), lightning-related fires are more common in June through August, and in the late afternoon and evening. Peak seasons for such fires vary by region.
Lieutenant Kenny Mitchel with Chesterfield County Fire and EMS told 8News that there have been three confirmed lightning fires that impacted residences so far in 2022. In Henrico County, fire personnel said they responded to three lightning-related incidents on July 12 alone. In Hanover County, Fire-EMS Battalion Chief Gregory Martin said there have been two lightning fires confirmed at this point in 2022.
“Lightning tends to strike at taller objects, so usually when we get a lightning strike to a residential structure, it usually starts in the attic area,” Boatwright said, commenting on the visible damage to the roof, attic and upper floor of the residence involved in Tuesday’s fire on Brickhaven Drive.
According to the NFPA, if thunder is audible, lightning is within striking distance. Individuals should look for shelter inside a home, large building or hard-topped vehicle immediately.
But once inside, the NPFA recommends turning off computers, and staying away from corded phones, computers and other things that can cause direct contact with electricity or plumbing. The association also recommends against washing hands, bathing, showering, doing laundry or washing dishes during a severe storm while lightning is striking.
“There are some commercial-made lightning rod protection systems,” Boatwright said. “But the most important thing that we could tell anybody, much like a lightning strike or just a regular warming fire from the chimney, is if you have a working smoke detector, that means a difference between life and death, many times.”
Lt. Mitchell also reminded residents to check on their pets that may be outside, as well as any loose, outdoor furniture, and to avoid travel during storms that could cause high water.