Lightning strike triggers house fire in College Hill

COLLEGE HILL, OH (FOX19) - Neighbors react to lightning strikes that may have been responsible for the fire that destroyed a College Hill home.

"Flames came out five or six feet high," said Will Meissner, who's lived on the same block for 25 years.

"Oh! And then the black smoke, the black smoke, oh it just billowed!," said his wife Ruth.

Authorities can't say for sure, but believe it was struck by lightning. Firefighters were able to put out the blaze but not before a lot of damage to that home.

Plenty of neighbors saw it all happen and there were some tense moments for many of the seniors who live in the Twin Towers community.

They heard the lightning crack; it shook their homes and caught one on fire. It happened on South Ridge Drive around 5:30 p.m.

A lightning bolt potentially blasted a hole right through the roof of a home owned by a man in his 90's. Neighbors say he is actually hospitalized down the street in the Health Center and he was not home at the time.

Captain Michael Washington, Public Information Officer with the Cincinnati Fire Department said it could have been a lot worse, as many of the condos share walls and are attached.

When we asked Captain Washington if lightning was the cause, you could hear the heavens rumble a thundery answer as he gave us his. "Possibly weather-related but at this point we're going to label it undetermined," Washington said. "It looks like it extended up into the attic space and went horizontal, left and right"

The fire was contained in about 20 minutes. Damage is extensive in the first unit, if not a total loss. The condos to the left and right sustained moderate damage.

As you might imagine, the sound alone of the lightning and the smell of the fire rattled the neighbors next door. "We were sitting in the living room when boom, that lightning hit and wham, just that quick!" said Ruth Meissner who lives a few doors down. "Oh! It was terrible, it scared me."

"So I thought somebody had a heart attack," said her husband Will Meissner. "So I came out here and they were unraveling the hose."

"We could smell it!," Ruth said. "And you could see the black clouds going above the house!"

"Flames came out five or six feet high," Will said.

"It was nerve-wracking," Ruth said. "I'm still afraid, because these houses are all side to side to side straight down."

The Meissners have been on that block 25 years. They said they've never seen or heard anything like that.

We're told the owners of the condos on both sides of the one that was initially struck are ok. They were home but did not get hurt.

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