Three firefighters and one Hoke County homeowner were injured Tuesday in two separate house fires caused by lightning strikes, according to the Puppy Creek Fire Department.
The first fire happened around 5 p.m. Tuesday at a house on the 300 block of Somerset Drive, located off of Hobson Road in East Hoke. A firefighter with the Rockfish Fire Department and a firefighter with the Fort Bragg Fire Department were injured when the ceiling in the burning house collapsed and knocked them to the floor, Puppy Creek Fire Department Chief John Joseph said Wednesday.
Both of the injured firefighters were removed from the house and treated on the scene by Hoke County EMS. Paramedics transported the two firefighters to Cape Fear Valley Hoke Hospital for further treatment. Both have been released from the hospital, and the Fort Bragg firefighter was able to return to work, Joseph said.
A firefighter with the Hillcrest Fire Department also suffered heat exhaustion while battling the flames. He was transported to FirstHealth of the Carolinas, where he was treated and released.
Hoke’s fire stations have seen fire-related injuries before in other circumstances, Joseph said in an email.
“Fire fighting is an inherently dangerous occupation; Even with the best safety practices injuries will occur,” he wrote.
The house was a total loss. The homeowner received help from the American Red Cross, and has local family members, the fire chief reported.
A second house fire in Hoke County, also caused by a lightning strike, happened less than an hour later. Lightning struck a house on the 500 block of Natchez Drive, located off of Galatia Church Road in East Hoke. The emergency call for the second fire came in at 5:55 p.m., Joseph said.
The homeowner at that residence was apparently injured and transported to a hospital. His condition was unknown. Rockfish Fire Department handled the fire.
Hillcrest, Rockfish, Fort Bragg and the City of Fayetteville fire departments all joined forces in the fire suppression efforts Tuesday. Other first responder agencies also stepped in to support the firefighters.
“Hoke County EMS and Hoke Rescue Squad set up a rehab center for firefighters and did a phenomenal job in maintaining the firefighters and monitoring for heat exhaustion,” Joseph said.
Lightning strikes at homes are not uncommon, the fire chief said. Joseph urged homeowners to immediately call 911 if their house is struck by lightning, even before they see smoke or fire.
“Fire calls for lightning strikes during a storm can many times be handled quickly. The problem strikes come from delayed calling of the fire department and a fire has an opportunity to grow in size. Please encourage people if they suspect a lightning strike to their residence to call immediately; do not wait on smoke or fire to call. Fire will double in size every minute, a 5 to 10 minute delay in response can be devastating,” Joseph wrote.