Lightning struck a home last week on Mud Lake in Park Rapids, starting a fire that caused extensive damage.
According to Assistant Fire Chief Ben Cumber, Park Rapids Fire Department personnel were paged out to a structure fire at 1:18 a.m. Friday, Aug. 14, at the home of Marc Thielen on Eastbay Drive.
Later investigation showed that lightning struck the house’s chimney and set the ridgeline on fire, Cumber said. “The fire descended through the ridgeline, through the shingles, and down into the upper, vaulted area of the house.”
Upon arrival, fire personnel saw six-foot-high flames coming out of where the chimney had been. “The chimney was totally exploded from the lightning,” said Cumber, “and there were pieces of it laying everywhere over the yard.”
He recalled being concerned about working in rain and cloud-to-ground lightning. “We were a little reserved about putting people on roofs until that passed, but it passed just about the time we got on scene,” he said.
It took only minutes for fire crews to extinguish the flames, but they stayed another 30-40 minutes to overhaul the scene – which Cumber explained as looking for sources of heat and possible reignition.
“We used positive-pressure fans and got rid of the smoke in the house, and just triple-checked our work,” he said.
Cumber described the damage as moderate to severe, but called the house “salvageable,” despite a hole in the roof.
Five apparatus and approximately 20 firefighters responded to the call, using 200 to 400 gallons of water to knock down the fire, Cumber said. According to Thielen, city police and sheriff’s deputies also showed up at the scene.
Cumber said they cleared the scene at about 3 a.m. “I feel like they did a superb job,” he said. “Everything went smoothly. From the time on scene to the time the fire was out was minutes.
‘Hats off’ to PRFD
Thielen said everyone, from 911 operators to fire personnel, did a great job.
“Park Rapids Fire Department, hats off to them,” he said. “They were fast and prompt and courteous. It’s unfortunate that my home started on fire, but everybody was good to work with. I don’t have any complaints.”
Thielen, who was home alone that night, recalled that he was awakened by the storm a few minutes before the lightning strike. He also voiced awe at the power that blasted pieces of his chimney into a neighbor’s yard.
“It was thrown a significant distance,” he said. “It was a big blast. That is powerful stuff. I never imagined that lightning was that powerful. You know, to hit there, and then get hot enough to start the house on fire. It’s amazing.”
Thielen said he is staying in a hotel and working with his insurance company, trying to find contractors to do repairs. He noted with appreciation that fire personnel put a tarp over the open parts of the roof, which helped during the heavy rainfall later on Friday.
“We had a monsoon, so I had water running in the house,” he said, adding that a restoration team has already started drying out the home’s interior.
“At least there was something up there to stop some of the rain that was coming the next day,” he said. “It’s not fun, but everybody that showed up did a great job.”