Lightning bolt leaves Perry family homeless

PERRY -- A few days ago Brice Edwards and his wife decided they should get renters insurance, but a little procrastination and a lightning bolt ended up costing them big time.

The couple and their four children were asleep early Monday morning when Edwards heard a bang that sounded like a gunshot. He had no idea what had happened until he went outside in the rain and saw flames shooting from a hole in the roof.

Lightning flashed nearby, and Edwards realized the house had been struck.

He immediately proceeded to get his family out of the house and call 911. By the time they were out the door, the home was full of smoke, and flames were coming out of the roof.

The home, on Oak Ridge Drive, is an older wood-frame structure, the kind that usually burns quickly. Edwards said when they got out of the house, he thought it was going to burn to the ground. But he said firefighters responded rapidly and did a good job putting out the blaze.

However, most of their furniture was destroyed by water damage. Monday afternoon Edwards and his wife, Christina, sifted through their belongings and tried to figure out what could be salvaged. The stench of smoke was strong, and water was still dripping through the ceiling.

Although the home can be repaired, he said, it is expected to take a while, so they are hunting for another apartment. This time, he said, they will definitely be getting renters insurance.

In the meanwhile they are staying with friends. They planned to rent a storage unit to hold their belongings until they get a new place.

Glenn Allen, spokesman for the Georgia Insurance Commissioner’s office, said his office recommends renters get insurance because a landlord’s insurance typically doesn’t cover a tenant’s belongings. He also said it’s relatively inexpensive. He said renters might want to start by contacting their car insurer to get a quote.

Lightning strikes are also blamed for two devastating house fires Sunday night in Crawford County.

Firefighters battled a blaze off Marshall Mill Road and another on Pea Ridge Road. Fire Chief Randy Pate said crews put in a long night, but the buildings were destroyed. No one was injured.

“Both homeowners said they heard a loud pop, and the house filled up with smoke,” Pate said.

The most important thing homeowners can do to reduce the risk of a fire due to lightning is to make sure the home’s electrical system is grounded, said Jimmy Williams, Houston County fire chief and emergency management director.

Ground wires can break, he said, so it’s a good idea to have that checked by an electrician. If people don’t want to pay for an electrician to come out just for that reason, he said they should at least ask to have it checked if they are having some other type of electrical work done.

He said he can’t say whether lightening rods are effective in preventing damage to homes.

Staff writer Liz Fabian contributed to this report. To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.