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Fire Severely Damages Ferguson Township Condominium, Reportedly Struck by Lightning

by and on July 27, 2014 10:55 PM

A ferocious storm that passed through State College on Sunday evening left a path of fire and downed trees behind it.

Flames roared through a condominium at 3221 Shellers Bend Rd. in Ferguson Township after it was reportedly struck by lightning.

Crews from several area fire companies responded to a call that came in just before 7:23 p.m. Sunday at the height of the storm.

"I heard it before I saw it,” says Helen Magnuson, who lives across the street. “It sounded like a bomb and I thought it had hit my house but when I raced down, I came out through this door, the house over there was already on fire."

She says, I didn’t take time to think. I ran back and called the fire department.”

Assistant Fire Chief Shawn Kauffman of the Alpha Fire Company says conditions were raw. "We were in the middle of a driving rainstorm when we arrived -- visibility was very poor. It was raining extremely hard. There was a lot of lightning.

"It appears that possibly a lightning strike caught the roof ... on fire," says Kauffman. "When we arrived the roof was fully involved."

Watch video from the scene of the fire below:

 

Firefighters raced inside the burning building and quickly determined no one was inside. Intense heat and flames forced fire crews from State College, Boalsburg, Bellefonte and Pleasant Gap back outside. They used an aerial ladder truck to battle the fire from overhead.

Kauffman says no one was injured, but that all four units in the building suffered smoke and water damage. Extensive damage to one unit was evident with the roof destroyed. It's unclear how many people were displaced by the fire.

“It probably took 30 to 40 minutes to get it under control," Kauffman says.

One firefighter was transported to the hospital where he was being monitored for exertion as of Sunday night, Kauffman says. StateCollege.com was there as that firefighter sat on the ground while he was checked out. After a few minutes the firefighter walked away under his own power, assisted by other first responders.

The storm also knocked down trees at two intersections in downtown State College. Beaver Avenue at Pugh Street was closed after a tree fell on a power line. Borough crews also worked to remove a large tree branch from the intersection of Hamilton Avenue and Locust lane.

Meteorologist Steve Wistar of Accuweather says that it “was a pretty strong storm with quite a bit of lightning.” A severe thunderstorm warning was issued Sunday evening in anticipation of the storm’s strong winds, which reached 45 mph at the Accuweather center on Science Park Road in State College.

Because of an area of unusually cold air moving through the air, thunderstorms developed after this mixed with the warm and humid air closer to the ground. Ice crystals in the air also contributed a greater amount of lightning, Wistar says.

“The upside is that we’ll get cooler weather than normal for July for the next few days,” Wistar says. “The storms are kind of the payoff for the comfortable weather.”

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Steve Bauer is Managing Editor & Chief Content Officer at StateCollege.com. Steve and his wife Trina are longtime area residents. They reside in State College along with a wacky Golden Retriever named Izzy. You can e-mail Steve at Steve.Bauer@StateCollege.com and you can follow him on Twitter @SteveBauerSCcom


Michael Martin Garrett is a general assignment reporter for StateCollege.com, a graduate of Penn State and a published poet. He's also a serious musician who plays bass in a local indie rock band.
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