By Joel Hall
Lightning storms spawned at least three fires, and caused thousands of dollars worth of damage in Clayton County on Wednesday night.
According to Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services officials, lightning sparked fires at two Jonesboro homes, started a small vegetation fire in Riverdale, and caused other minor damage around the county.
Fire and Emergency Services Battalion Chief Landry Merkison said firefighters responded to nine lightning-related calls on Wednesday, between 6:50 p.m., and 8 p.m. Two of those calls, he said, came as a result of lightning striking the attics of homes at 319 Fieldgreen Drive, and 7574 Elliott Drive in Jonesboro.
"We had malfunctioning alarms, due to lightning, we had a confirmed vegetation fire, where a fire started in the woods," he said. "Of those nine [calls], I know we had two confirmed, working house fires. Elliott Drive came in about 7:08 p.m., and Fieldgreen came in about 7:20 p.m.
"On the Fieldgreen incident, the damage was contained mainly in the attic," he said. "They had heavy smoke coming from the house. There was a family inside. They were outside of the house when firefighters arrived. There was no rescue involved."
According to Merkison, a less-severe, attic fire took place at Elliott Drive, but no one was in the house at the time of the incident. He said the house on Elliott received approximately $20,000 worth of damage, while the house on Fieldgreen Drive received approximately $50,000 worth of damage.
Merkison said lightning also struck a tree near 8873 Wesley Place in Riverdale on Wednesday night, causing a small vegetation fire. He said firefighters were successful in containing the blaze without damage to surrounding property.
Merkison warned that while little can be done to prevent lightning from striking a house, people should take precautions to protect themselves during lightning storms. He said many people are struck by lightning after the initial storm has passed.
"As far as people protecting themselves, we suggest that people stay off corded phones, stay out of the shower, and stay indoors," Merkison said. "Give 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder before you go outside. Just because the storm passes, you are still at-risk. Lightning can reach back up to five miles and still strike you. If you can still hear thunder in the distance, you are still in danger."