SIDNEY TOWNSHIP — It started with a loud boom and then a plume of smoke drifting out over Derby Lake.
According to neighbors, it was the loudest lightning strike they had ever heard and it was enough to spark flames on the roof of a home occupied by Woody and Mary Ely, an elderly couple who were sitting down having breakfast Monday morning when the strike hit.
“The ground shook,” said Steve Kellogg, who lives just two houses away from the Ely home, which was destroyed in the fire.
“We could see what looked like steam coming off the lake, but it was smoke,” added his wife, Pat Kellogg.
Barbara Fortenbaugh, who lives next door, said she too was frightened by the crack of the lightning.
“It was just a big boom, we all heard it and screamed and hollered,” she said. “I’ve not heard a boom like that.”
The Elys were home when the lightning strike hit, said Fortenbaugh, who gave shelter to the couple while firefighters fought the blaze.
“They are kind of in shock,” she said, but neither were hurt.
Two firefighters, including Stanton Fire Chief Brian Brasington, were injured after falling through the home’s roof while fighting the blaze.
“We saw them fall right through,” Steve Kellogg said. “They were holding on to the roof, crawled up and rolled onto the roof.”
Brasington received burns on his wrists and potentially broke a number of ribs, according to Stanton Assistant Fire Chief Dawayne Peterman. Another firefighter was experiencing neck pain after the fall. Both men were taken to Sheridan Community Hospital, according to Peterman.
Firefighters spent several hours in heavy rain fighting the fire, which started on the roof. Peterman said he believed lightning struck a nearby utility pole and the electricity from it ran through lines running along the roof. A nearby tree, which was charred from top to bottom with bark blown out near the base, was also struck in what Peterman believed was a “dual strike.”
The surge sparked the roof, where the flames spread throughout the entire roofline, Peterman said. The entire house received heavy water and smoke damage and is likely a complete loss.
Sporadic rain seemed to help control the fire, but Peterman said the heavily soaked gear weighed already fatigued firefighters down, hindering their efforts.
The Stanton Fire Department was assisted by the Montcalm Township and Sheridan Community fire departments.