Lightning strike sparks fire at north Charlotte home, investigators say

CHARLOTTE — Investigators believe a lightning strike caused a fire at a north Charlotte home early Monday. It forced a family of six to find somewhere else to stay.

Crews were called just after 12 a.m. to the house on Ribbonwalk Trail. When they arrived, firefighters saw heavy smoke and fire coming from the home.

Charlotte Fire said it took 30 firefighters 19 minutes to get the blaze under control. No one was inside at the time of the fire and no injuries have been reported.

The woman who lives next to the home said she is just happy no one was hurt.

“In the daylight it just showed how close we were to death,” Vanessa Whitley said.

Investigators discovered the fire started in a loft over the garage before spreading to the main attic area. They believe a lightning strike is what caused it to spark, saying there were heavy storms in the area at the time.

The Red Cross is helping the family, three adults and three children, find housing.

Charlotte Fire estimates the fire caused $82,000 in damage.

‘Loud boom’

Whitley said she heard a loud bang around 7 p.m. Sunday. It was so loud she thought a tree had fallen on her home.

”We heard this loud boom and lighting had struck something,” she said.

She said she initially smelled gas and called 911 thinking the strike had caused a gas leak, but responding crews cleared after finding normal levels. She said the lightning strike didn’t spark a flame right away.

Eventually though, the inferno started just after midnight and spread throughout her neighbor’s attic, even burning the siding of her house. She said she slept through most of it until a guardian angel gave her a warning.

”The neighbor on the other side of me was banging on my door saying, ’the house is on fire,’” she said.

That neighbor was Gema Isiba. She lives a few doors down from Whitley and said she saw the flames while driving her younger son home. She called 911 and then jumped into action.

“Just instinct,” she said. “It’s fire, so I’m like somebody could be there.”

For Whitley, the whole experience is a wake-up call. It’s one that has her thinking about how thankful she is to still be here.

“Lighting actually was the cause of this, out of our control, you know,” she said. “It still hits home to think anything can happen in a day. You don’t get up thinking by nightfall I’m homeless.”

(WATCH BELOW: Two hurt in west Charlotte house fire, MEDIC says)

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