Lightning is believed to have sparked two house fires over the weekend in Baldwin County, one of which destroyed a historical mansion in the Coopers community.
No one was injured in either of the blazes, according to Baldwin County Fire Rescue Chief Victor Young.
More than a dozen firefighters with Baldwin County Fire Rescue battled raging flames and thick smoke that billowed from the mansion, known as the Stephen Pottery Colonial Home, located at 133 Jeff Hall Road, Young said.
The fire chief said firefighters received a call that the home was on fire at 3:56 p.m. Saturday.
The home, which was built in the 1800s, was under renovation.
The historic mansion was lived in by a woman, her son and two grandchildren, Young told The Union-Recorder in a telephone interview Monday morning.
No one was home at the time the fire broke out in a second-floor bedroom, according to the fire chief.
“She (woman who lived there) saw a flame on the D side of the large three-story structure when she arrived back home,” Young said. “She saw fire coming from a second-floor bedroom of the house.”
The woman called 911 for help and within a short time, 15 county firefighters arrived to battle the intense fire.
“When we got on scene, we found heavy brown smoke coming from the roof area and fire showing on the D side of the structure,” Young said.
The fire chief said firefighters initially attempted to “knock” the fire down.
A fire crew was sent into the house through the front door to assess the situation further.
“They were able to make it to the top floor of the structure, and there they were actually knocking the fire down as best as they could until the fire got up into the attic, and I had to call them out for safety reasons,” Young said.
He said the attic of the Colonial mansion was made of tongue and groove and firefighters were unable to penetrate that area.
Young said he and other fire officials on the scene believe the fire “flashed” once flames reached the attic.
“That’s when we knew that we had to get our guys out to keep them from possibly being injured,” Young said.
Once the firefighters were safely out of the burning mansion, it wasn’t long before flames consumed the roof and quickly spread to the rest of the structure.
“The firefighters on the inside of the structure couldn’t see what we could see on the outside,” Young said.
Firefighters battled hotspots for three to four hours after the 911 fire call was made.
Young said Lt. Bradley Towe, who investigates causes of fires for Baldwin County Fire Rescue, looked over the one at the mansion and believes it was caused by a lightning strike.
“Just from looking at the home, we believe lightning caused the fire,” Young said. “We saw some bricks that had dispersed away from the house.”
Fire officials believe lightning hit the brick structure and caused a fire to break out in a second-floor bedroom.
“You could see how it was splattered out in the yard of the structure,” Young said.
There had been severe thunderstorms reported in the area shortly before the fire was reported, according to the fire chief.
“The home was totally destroyed,” Young said. “The family lost everything.”
In an unrelated fire, meanwhile, a Baldwin County family escaped injury after lightning caught their wood-frame afire early Sunday on the east side of the county, Young said.
The family dwelling on 109 Meadow Road, located in northeast Milledgeville, sustained moderate damages from a fire that started in a bedroom after lightning struck the house shortly before 4 a.m. Sunday, the fire chief said.
“It started on the B side of the home,” he said.
The family of Felicia Hill, who lived there, escaped the fire safely.
Now that she and her family have been displaced as a result of the fire, they are receiving help from the American Red Cross Chapter in Macon.
Young said firefighters had gone to that same residence earlier because of the smell of smoke on Saturday afternoon.
It was determined that the smoke was coming from an air conditioning unit.
When firefighters went to that residence the following morning, they found a spot in the attic which they believe was caused by a lightning strike from a thunderstorm, Young said.
“That’s what caused the fire there then, we believe,” he said.