Police say lightning struck a tree next to the house, stripping off the bark, before traveling underground and making contact with the house's sprinkler system. From there, it entered the house and hit an electric panel, causing the fire.
The residents escaped safely.
According to WABC-TV Eyewitness News, Art Zanotti, a neighbor who also happens to be a volunteer fire chief, was on his way out of his house headed to another call when he saw the lightning strike. He then spotted a glow from the fire coming from the basement of the home. He grabbed a fire extinguisher and knocked down the flames.
NFPA’s Lighting Safety tip sheet provides information on what to do to keep safe in typical situations when storms strike.
- If you can hear thunder, you are within striking distance of lightning. Look for shelter inside a home, large building, or a hard-topped vehicle right way.
- Do not go under trees for shelter. There is no place outside that is safe during a thunderstorm.
- Wait at least 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder before leaving your shelter.
The bizarre nature of the New Jersey lightning strike is a reminder of the importance of having working smoke alarms. NFPA’s Smoke Alarm tip sheet and Smoke Alarm Central provide comprehensive smoke alarm information.