Lightning Ignites House

Lightning Ignites House

Over $1 million in damage.

A few weeks ago, after Caitlin Young came back from college, she left her suitcases in her car. They sat there for a while but eventually she took them up to her room at her family home on Hemswell Place. "I finally moved them in the other day," Young said.

Then, during the storm on May 25, a bolt of lightning struck the house, and the top floor, where Young’s room is, took severe damage, destroying much of her belongings.

"I actually have most of my pictures," she said.

"It was a very tough one," said Eugene Roesser, spokesman of Cabin John Park Volunteer Fire Department, referring to the fire. "We had the equivalent of a second alarm there."

The storm’s high winds and rain seemed to hit particularly hard in the Potomac area. "Potomac seems to have been hit worse than any other part of the county," Roesser said. He said that this house fire was definitely the single biggest event during the storm.

Young, her stepfather and three younger brothers were home at the time of the lightning strike. The five of them had gone into the basement because of a fear of tornadoes, Young said.

Her brothers were about to go up the stairs when the bolt struck the house. "It was huge," Young said. "It actually scared the crap out of us." The family remained in the basement. "We stayed there until the storm had passed," she said.

"Thankfully, they were in the lower level of the home," Roesser said.

When they did go upstairs, they knew something was wrong. "We could smell the burning," Young said. She and her family left the house. "We went outside and watched the house burn," she said.

Roesser said that the damage estimate for the fire was $1.25 million. "I would say the majority was structural. He estimated that there were a total of 85 firefighter on the scene, pulling reinforcements from neighboring stations. "We had to pull Fairfax [County, Va. Fire Departments] in to cover our station," Roesser said.

The rain, which might help in some situations by cooling down the fire, was actually hindering the efficiency of the firefighters. "The rain wasn’t helping the situation," he said.

After about 40 minutes, the firefighters were able to get the situation under control, Roesser said. "Thankfully, there wasn’t a problem with exposure [damage to neighboring houses]," he said.

Young spent the night at a friend’s house. "I think the insurance company is going to get us a rental house, while this one is being rebuilt," she said.