In the first hours of Monday morning, Linda Killian huddled with her neighbors in the pouring rain outside her home, watching lightning tear across the sky and the top of her house burn.
All things considered, Killian said she feels blessed.
“The house is damaged, and it’s a tragedy,” said Killian. “But it could have been much, much worse. My children aren’t planning a funeral today.”
The Fleetwood Falls home was struck by lightning shortly after 1 a.m. Monday during a lightning storm that knocked out power at more than 50 different locations across Blue Ridge Electric’s service area.
The bolt of lightning struck an exterior window frame on the home, and the wicked “boom” sound woke Killian up.
A sound sleeper, Killian said she realized a summer storm was raging outside, rolled over and tried to go back to sleep, until the smoke alarm in her downstairs bedroom started ringing.
“I went and got my step ladder to try to shut that thing off, when I realized all the smoke alarms in the house were going off,” said Killian. “I called my neighbor next door and she told me there was smoke coming out of the eave of the house. I went upstairs and could see the bedroom on one side of the house had been hit right above the window. It was black, and I realized the house was filling with smoke.”
Killian called 911 shortly after 1 a.m. and members of the Fleetwood, Todd, and West Jefferson Volunteer Fire Departments raced to the scene while Killian retreated outside and into the rain.
“They were wonderful,” said Killian. “Those guys got here quick, and I couldn’t ask for better people. By the time they arrived, the flames were coming out of the house. They got here just in time.”
Standing in the rain with her neighbors, Killian watched as the firefighters went to work.
“When we arrived, we had flames through the roof at one end of the house,” said Fleetwood Fire Chief Steve Craven. “We were able to hold the fire to a small area upstairs and in that bedroom, with fairly minimal damage.”
Firefighters were on-scene until shortly after 5 a.m. according to Craven, who said a lightning strike to the window frame on the exterior of Killian’s home was the trigger that started the blaze.
“It’s rare, but it does happen occasionally,” said Craven.
Ashe County Fire Marshal Bob Davis said the fire’s point of origin was apparent because of the way the lightning had damaged the sheet rock in Killian’s home, and the fact that no electrical ignition source was anywhere near where the fire had started.
Davis said it was also important that the smoke alarms in Killian’s home were wired together.
“The smoke alarms downstairs woke her up,” said Davis. “If one alarm in the house goes off, they all go off. Which is exactly what you want.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Killian said the fire has been a trying experience, but she feels blessed.
“Since the fire, everybody has come out, done their job, and the next folks have come in,” said Killian. “The repair has gone about as smoothly as I could have hoped for. I’m alive and just feel really blessed. It could have been so much worse.”
Killian said even the timing of the lightning strike was fortuitous.
“I’d been gone a couple days before that,” said Killian. “If this had happened, and I hadn’t been home, it would not have been good. Both my neighbors heard the strike, and looked to see what had happened, but nothing was evident until several minutes later. If the fire department hadn’t been called when they were, by the time they got here, even with all that rain, it would have been bad. So, even in tragedy, there are miracles.”