Residential Lightning Fire | Hamptons Electronic Protection

OTTUMWA — City firefighters believe lightning started a house fire late Tuesday afternoon in the city’s west end.

At about 4:24 p.m. Tuesday, firefighters responded to the fire at 215 N. Benton St., which is near the corner of Fourth and Benton streets.

Neighbors also believe lightning was the cause. David Schakel lives nearby and he “heard a big boom” and went outside to see where the lightning hit. Dan Randolph did the same. From Third Street he could see smoke coming from Cynthia Aszman’s home and he called her at work.

Aszman stood in the rain and watched the smoke coming out of the roof of her home. She worried about her three children’s clothing, bedding, and other possessions on the second floor.

“As if I didn’t have enough going on in my life,” she said and continued her cell-phone calls to family members and McDonald’s, her employer. She is the swing manager at the north store.

On Wednesday Ottumwa Fire Chief Steve O’Connor said he believes the lightning hit some wiring in the attic area of the two-story structure.

“The fire originated in the roof area in the rear of the house,” O’Connor said. “As you look at the front of the house, [the spot] is on the right, at the rear.”

Fire spread into the attic, overhang, and the roof itself, the chief added. A firefighter took a power saw with him as he climbed a ladder to the roof. He cut a hole in it so firefighters could access the attic from above and below to extinguish the fire and soak down hot spots.

“We wanted to vent it and had to pull some of the eave off,” O’Connor said.

When the firefighters entered the home, there was hardly any smoke, according to the chief. They put a large fan at the front door to draw out any smoke and keep the damage to a minimum.

Firefighters also put down salvage covers in an upstairs bedroom and pulled the ceiling down to get at the fire.

“This is one of those fires where the home sustains damage caused by fire and the unavoidable damage we cause to extinguish the fire,” O’Connor said.

There was a bit of water damage, too, including rain coming in through the hole cut in the roof. Later, firefighters also put salvage covers over the holes in the attic to keep the rain out.

Electricity is off in the home, which needs roof repair, drywall, insulation, and cleanup before the Aszman family can return, according to O’Connor.

The Southern Prairie chapter of the American Red Cross is assisting the family with lodging and meals.

© 2006, The Ottumwa Courier