After a strong storm passed through the Birmingham area on March 7, the Mountain Brook Fire Department responded to a call on North Woodridge Road just before 5 p.m. Due to previous lightning in the area and an account from the homeowners and neighbors, the tentative cause of the fire is believed to be from a lightning strike, Mountain Brook Battalion Chief Patrick Dean said.
Upon arrival, the Mountain Brook firefighters performed a "360 degree size-up," or a walk-through, of the home to determine the location of the fire and noticed heavier smoke in the basement, Dean continued. "This was an odd situation, because the majority of the fire, it ended up being in a space between the floors between the basement and the first floor."
While the city's fire department was working along North Woodridge, Dean said neighboring cities offered support: Vestavia Hills Fire Department provided an engine, transport and personnel for a rapid intervention team; Homewood Fire Department provided advanced life support and an additional engine as well as mutual aid for the city of Mountain Brook to cover medical calls; and Rocky Ridge Fire Department provided mutual aid and responded to additional calls.
After crews completed their work, the structure of the house was deemed safe and no injuries were reported.
"Any time a storm comes through ... it's just known that there's going to be more calls generated," Dean said. Mountain Brook Fire Marshall Lee Rhudy added that the National Fire Protection Association recorded over 22,500 fires caused by lightning between 2007-2011, which resulted in 9 deaths, 53 injuries and $451 million in damages.
"You've always gotta be aware that lightning strikes can happen," said Dean. Rhudy suggested that those who may be in danger of lightning strikes should avoid porches, plumping, corded phones, computers and electrical outlets as well as leaning or laying on concrete walls. Dean added that to protect homes and families, residents should make sure all smoke detectors and alarms are operational with new batteries, evacuate the house if residents feel they may be in danger and to call 911.
"Don't be afraid to call 911 if you sense there might be a problem" he said, adding that sometimes people are hesitant to call because they aren't sure if there is in fact a fire. "Even if you aren't sure, it's always better to have the fire department come."
Editor's note: This article was edited at 1:30 p.m. on March 9 to add information from Fire Marshall Lee Rhudy.