SADDLEBROOKE: Lightning caused a June house fire - Tucson Local Media: Pima Pinal

SADDLEBROOKE: Lightning caused a June house fire

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Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2008 11:00 pm

In the past three months, fires have ravaged two homes in SaddleBrooke.

In May, a fire gutted a house on Rocky Trail Drive. A cigar may have caused the blaze, according to homeowner Boyd Bosma.

The second fire damaged a home June 26 on Ocotillo Canyon Drive. A lightning strike may be to blame for that fire, which started in the attic of the house.

While lightning-started house fires are rare, they are not unheard of, said Golder Ranch Fire District division chief John Sullivan.

More common, though, are the ancillary effects of an indirect lightning strike.

“In an indirect hit, you can have a surge of energy that can cause a secondary fire,” Sullivan said.

Golder Ranch officials have embarked on a campaign to inform residents of SaddleBrooke and other communities about ways to protect homes from lightning-caused fires.

Sullivan said that lightning rods can provide some protection against direct strikes to homes, but added the devices are not foolproof. Additionally, lightning rods may run afoul of rules set by some homeowners associations. He suggested SaddleBrooke residents contact their associations for more information.

Surge protectors are another measure of protection, primarily against an indirect lightning strike. They guard against a dangerous electrical overload that can follow an indirect strike.

While a lightning-caused house fire can cause extensive damage, Sullivan said the statistics show the events are exceptionally rare.

“This is further reiterated in a national, multi-decade study conducted by the National Fire Protection Association that cites a total of 4,200 house fires were attributed to lightning in 2005,” Sullivan said.

The study’s authors noted more than 500,000 structure fires throughout the country during the same time frame, so the incidence of lightning-caused fires is less than 1 percent of all structure fires.

Arizona ranks 13th in the nation for the total number of cloud-to-ground lightning strikes, Sullivan said. The greater Tucson area has relatively few properties struck each year.

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