Does Lightning Cause House Fires?
Lightning strikes regularly cause more than 22,000 reported fires per year in the United States. These fires result in upwards of $450 million in damages. Find out more about the various types of flashes that pose a lightning fire risk and how strikes travel toward the ground and ignite.
Types of Flashes
Flashes may involve one or more leaders, return strokes, and continuing current. Depending on the type of current, a flash may be considered:
- A hot flash with continuing current
- A cold flash with return strokes that may flicker
- A combined flash with returned strokes and continuing current
A hot flash with continuing current is the most common lightning fire cause. This type of flash illuminates with varying levels of brightness. If a hot flash hits an object, it may heat and ignite. These fires may be visible or hidden, and can result in extensive damage. Fire restoration experts work on many house fires that result from hot flashes.
How Strikes Travel
Flashes can travel through the air without the need for conductors. Any conductive materials on or near the ground are capable of attracting a strike. Some of the most common conductors include:
- Gas lines
- Water pipes
- Window frames
Flashes may jump through the air from one conductor to another with better grounding. This rerouting is called a side flash, and poses the greatest risk of a house fire.
Lightning can cause visible fires or dangerous hidden fires on a roof, in an attic, or behind walls. If a direct strike occurs at or near a residence in Smiths, KY, the homeowner should call the fire department. It may not be immediately obvious that a lightning fire has started until significant damage has been sustained. These fires also pose a major safety risk. Firefighters can confirm that no fire is present or extinguish hidden fires.