Colorado Springs, CO – On August 20, 2018, at approximately 6:00 p.m., the Colorado Springs Fire Department responded to a report of a structure fire at 7965 Heartland Way. Fire companies declared a working structure fire while en route as a large white plume of smoke was visible from W. Woodmen Road and Orchard Heights. Fire Companies arrived in 6 minutes to a three-story, wood-framed, single-family dwelling with heavy gray/white smoke but no flames visible from the entire soffit area of the roof. Firefighters met the homeowners in the front yard upon arrival and confirmed no human or animal life remained inside the structure. Homeowners stated they heard thunder and lost power momentarily two hours before smoke began issuing from the structure. Firefighters made an offensive fire attack through the front door and found moderate heat and smoke on the main level, but when crews reached the upper floor, they encountered heavy smoke and extreme heat. During the offensive fire attack and post vertical ventilation, the incident commander retreated all firefighters to the outside of the structure due to failing roof trusses. Subsequently, the roof collapsed, and a defensive firefighting posture was assumed; fighting the fire from the exterior for safety concerns. Due to steep terrain on approximately one half of the perimeter of the home, limited access for water application was a contributing factor during the firefight.
Approximately 50 firefighters were on scene to assist in extinguishing the fire, and three teams of two firefighters rotated at the location all night to protect against and provide early 911 if the fire were to re-kindle due to the many void spaces in the home and truss system. The two occupants will be displaced as they work to assess damage and reconstruct much, if not all, of their home.
CSFD fire investigators responded to the scene, and after a thorough investigation, the investigators determined the fire to be accidental and attributed to a nearby lightning strike. It is challenging, in this case, for investigators to know if the bolt of lightning hit the home directly or adjacent to the house as direct contact isn’t necessary to start a fire because of the physical properties of electricity. Weather research suggests there was significant lightning activity in the area corroborating the homeowner's statement of thunder and loss of power.
Attached is a study by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) detailing lightning strikes and structure fires:
- 22,600 lightning fires, on average, are reported to local fire departments per year that were started by lightning
- These fires caused an average of nine civilian deaths, 53 civilian injuries, and $451 million in direct property damage per year
- The National Weather Service reports there are over 500,000 lightning strikes in Colorado annually
- The Heartland Fire is the third working structure fire due to a lightning strike in less than one week in Colorado Springs
- All structure fires were in the same general area of NW Colorado Springs