July 28th (old news, I know) around 4:45 PM lightning hit the house we are renting. None of us were home, except our dog Clancy. Evidently the lightning traveled into the house via the gas line, in any case the gas line fractured/developed a couple of holes. When the firemen went into the house about an hour or so later, there was an eight foot flame shooting out one side of the gas line and another out the other side. The first softened a water line that “failed” and released water into the basement. The second was apparently aimed at the radon mitigation vent pipe.
The outside of the concrete foundation was measured at 400-500 degrees (F). This caused the wood framing underneath the front deck to begin smoldering. The neighbors came outside after the storm passed to check on their house, smelled the smoke, heard the smoke detector, then heard Clancy, looked in the windows and saw a house filled with haze and so called 911.
No one will ever know for sure, but the best guess is that the water from the failed line both cooled the fire and generated the steam that was seen as “haze”. After all of the burned plastic was removed there was virtually no smoke odor remaining in the house. My theory is that the radon mitigation fan was sucking the smoke up and out of the roof vent, resulting in something the neighbors could smell outside, but minimizing the interior smoke.
The firemen came to the house and went in the (unlocked) front door – Clancy bolted out. They went downstairs, observed the flame, shut off the gas and that was pretty much it for the fire, except for ripping up the front deck and extinguishing the smoldering wood there.
The electricity fried a bunch of electronics (TV, telephone, cable box, surge protector, exhaust fan in the master bath, a light circuit on the side porch and tripped the GFIs in the vicinity). The water damage was pretty significant to books, photos, tools, etc stored in the utility room where all of the excitement happened. Paula and I were both several hours away. I was in Racine Wisconsin on a long range planning and study retreat. Paula was in Chicago completing her Certificate in Spiritual Direction from North Park Theological Seminary. Robin was at work. Robin got a call from one of our neighbors and I got a call from our landlord. I drove home the 5 hours. Robin came home and got Clancy and was allowed to take him back to work with her. Some friends came over and peeled apart all of the wet photos and saved almost all of them. The owner of the house got a professional company in immediately to begin the repair and drying out of the basement. Utilities were back on within 24 hours and we were back in the house by August 1st (though the basement wasn’t fully dry for a few days more.)
We are all fine, we have documented all of the loss for insurance.
It is amazing that the whole house did not either incinerate or explode. We are thankful that there was no loss of life to us or our canine friend Clancy.
“No one will ever know for sure…”
It is part of the wonder and beauty of this life that we will never know for sure… It is a supreme expression of faith, not just to “believe God” for some future desired outcome, but also, and sometimes even more, it is trusting that his goodness is expressed in “what just happened”. Prevention of calamity, redirection of our steps, clarification of what is truly important, re-ordered love… the fruit of reflection in times when we will never know for sure.