Heavy fire after Austin home struck by lightning

Firefighters had to battle a heavy fire after a home was struck by lightning in West Austin. 

Lightning from a storm cell in West Austin struck a home, setting it on fire.

Firefighters said the way the flames spread through the attic made it difficult to put out.

No injuries were reported, but the damage is extensive.

The homeowner told FOX 7 she was cooking dinner when she heard a loud boom and saw her roof tiles falling off the house. She quickly gathered her family and pets and ran outside to call 911.

"This was definitely a severe storm. It was just sunny and then all of a sudden it's pouring rain and then boom, there's a big lightning bolt and a house is on fire," said Cathy Malloy who lives a few houses away.

It was just before 4 p.m. when flames tore through the roof of the home on Barton Point Drive.

"The problem with a lightning fire, obviously, is if it hits the top of the house, that's where it's going to be and that's the hardest part to access," said Ken Campbell, assistant chief of CE-Bar Fire Department.

Everyone inside the home was able to get out unharmed and, within minutes, several fire departments arrived to help put out the flames, but firefighters quickly realized they weren't dealing with a typical house fire.

"The problem is, is that the lightning strike apparently hit the top of the ridge line of the roof and then it caused a problem from there because it started working down in the attic and we couldn't access it to get up into it," Campbell said. Using water and foam, fire crews blasted the flames from the outside.

It was all too familiar for Malloy who just had a similar experience one month ago.

"We heard a big crack and, because our house was just hit by lightning on June 4th, we immediately looked, inspected the house, cause my son comes running down from upstairs and said there's a spark in his room and so we thought, 'Oh no, not again,'" said Malloy who still has a tarp covering the roof of her home from the lightning strike.

Neighbors can't help but wonder how lightning struck the same neighborhood twice in such a short time. "It seems kind of freaky. The neighbors are just discussing the fact, should we look into lightning rods? Is this climate change?" asked Malloy.

Firefighters felt the heat as they worked to save irreplaceable belongings and pictures from inside the home.

"The heat and the humidity is always a problem, as you can see we're all bunkered up in a lot of heavy equipment, so we've got some crews that are really spent right now," Campbell said.

Neighbors helped first responders in any way possible. "They brought us water and Gatorade. In fact, when I was walking down here, another gentleman was bringing another case of water," said Campbell.

Those who live on Barton Point Drive have already committed to supporting the homeowners through this difficult time. "The neighborhoods are going to help them out, but they're going to have to get housing and it's going to be a little bit of a rough road," Malloy said.

Fire investigators have not released a damage estimate at this time, but it is obvious that part of the roof caved in from the fire.

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