Lightning strike sparks fire in Ellicott, sheds light on dangers of thunderstorms

Posted at 4:49 PM, Apr 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-20 18:49:55-04

Thanks to earlier thunderstorms, lightning strikes are creating an extra dangerous factor for firefighters to consider this busy fire season.

Lightning strikes can be challenging for firefighters because it’s hard to predict exactly where they’ll hit and where they do happen, there’s likely to be damage.

Thunderstorms catching ellicott firefighters by surprise as they made their presence felt Friday morning.

"We didn’t think about lightning happening this morning," said Cristy Malone, the Deputy Chief of Operations at Ellicott Fire Department. 

"As the storms started to come through, we had a lot of lightning strikes in the area."

Ellicott Fire Department tells News 5 one strike sparked a fire near Sandborn Road, burning two acres.

Firefighters were able to put it out in under an hour, all because someone called it in as soon as they spotted it.

"Early reporting is key to getting on these fires before they get out of hand," said Edward Corn, Deputy Chief of Administration at Ellicott Fire Department.

Lightning strikes are adding an extra unpredictable and dangerous factor to this already-busy fire season

"Lightning strikes are extremely dangerous, we never know where they’re gonna hit or, you know, what kind of fire they’re gonna start," added Malone.

Ellicott Firefighters say snow can be especially effective at preventing these fires since, unlike rain, it creates lasting moisture in the ground as it melts.

But mother nature can only do so much and then it’s up to residents to take steps to mitigate.

Firefighters recommend disposing of any dead brush and keeping a clear perimeter around homes.

If you’re caught outside when lightning strikes firefighters say you can stay safe by seeking shelter or finding a low-lying area.

Once you’re safe, Ellicott Fire Department urges residents to give them a call and let them know where you saw the strike.

The call will prompt them to check it out and potentially avoid a bigger disaster.

"Every lightning strike doesn’t start a fire," said Corn, "but every lightning strike has the potential to start a fire."