Lightning strike ignites blaze in Cheshire


Photo Gallery | Lightning strike damages tree and causes fire in Cheshire

CHESHIRE — One powerful lightning bolt that through a tree and carved its own underground route is responsible for igniting a propane fire and damaging part of a home at 212 Curran Road. The lightning occurred during one of a series of spectacular thunderstorms tearing through the Berkshires Saturday night.

Cheshire Volunteer Fire Department Chief Thomas Francesconi said that the lightning's force was so strong it peeled the bark from the tree and threw dirt upward as it raced underground, striking a buried propane tank connection and following it to a propane flow regulator. The lightning's force blew the regulator from its anchor on the home, owned by Wallace Crouse, and ignited escaping gas.

The tree stood about 30 feet from the south side of the home, Francesconi said. The house sustained significant fire damage at the fire ignition point but the occupants were able to remain at home after the fire was extinguished, he said.

Firefighters were wrapping up from the evening's Cruz Night at about 9:30 p.m. when they were called to the home.

"The owner had just returned home and heard a loud bang," Francesconi said. "He looked out a bedroom window and all he could see was flames."

There were about 23 firefighters at the scene. There were no injuries reported.

Francesconi said the lightning strike and subsequent travel under the ground was clearly forceful.

"I've never seen anything like it before," he said. "You could see a spiral pattern, almost like a candy cane, where the lightning wrapped around the tree. You could see where the dirt was thrown up, holes in the ground where the lightning took the path of least resistance and where it just blew the regulator right off."

There were reports that the noise and illumination from the strike were audible and visible from some distance away. Francesconi said that some of the storms seemed concentrated over the western section of town, which is the area of Curran Road.

"We were watching the storms and we could see some pretty nasty lightning coming from the west side of town," he said.

Firefighters left the scene at 11:10 p.m., he said.

Downed wires and tree branches were reported along Fred Mason Road and Outlook Avenue.

Adams, North Adams and Williamstown police reported some tree branches and wires downed during the storms but no serious or widespread damage.

Pittsfield police said that there were some scattered power outages but no major damage was reported.

In South County, the weather was not quite a severe, although the popular Film Night at Tanglewood was interrupted for about 40 minutes until a thunderstorm passed. State and local police reported brief brown-outs and some trees down in Egremont, Stockbridge, Lee and Great Barrington


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