By CARL SMITH
City and county firefighters say they believe lightning strikes caused two separate fires when a thunderstorm moved through Oktibbeha County Thursday.
Starkville Fire Marshal Stein McMullen said firefighters arrived at the La Quinta Inns and Suites Highway 12 East construction site approximately 10:04 a.m. after contractors placed an emergency call three minutes earlier when smoke was observed exiting the building’s roof. A lightning strike, he said, is believed to have sparked the flames.
“(Contractors) said they felt the building shake, got through with a meeting … and saw the smoke,” McMullen said. “One guy said it looked like (lightning) hit the roof itself.”
SFD dispatched Ladder No. 1, Engine No. 3 and Engine No. 4 to the scene, and firefighters attacked the blaze from the air and through the building. Although SFD had the fire under control within 12 minutes, firefighters remained at the scene overhauling the affected portion of the building while searching for hot spots.
McMullen said no injuries were reported at the construction site and a financial damage estimate was not available.
“A good portion of the roof was affected,” he said. “You can stand in the stairwell and see the sky now.”
While Starkville firefighters were arriving at the structure fire, county firefighters were diverted to another structure fire while en route to a previous call.
Oktibbeha County Fire Services Coordinator Kirk Rosenhan said Central Oktibbeha volunteer firefighters were responding to an electric pole which was struck by lightning when a structure fire at 599 Oakwood Drive was reported shortly after 10 a.m. Lightning struck nearby power lines and the structure’s chimney, he said.
Additional manpower from Adaton, District 5 and Sturgis volunteer fire departments joined in the firefight, Rosenhan said, and damage was contained near the fire’s starting point.
“Most of the fire damage was interior to the walls and the area between the first and second story in a utility room,” he said. “We remained at the scene for a few hours overhauling to ensure all vestiges of fire were properly extinguished and the building was secure.”
One resident was at home when the fire started, Rosenhan said, but was able to escape with a pet.