Two girls rescued in house fire started by lightning

Friday, July 31, 2009
Obscured by smoke and a driving rain storm, Monett firemen fought through billowing smoke to stop a residential fire started by lightning yesterday. [Times Photo by Darla Damrill]

Lightning was credited with starting a fire at 1568 N. Central in Monett yesterday. Firefighters had a three-hour battle against the blaze that left significant damage.

According to Fire Chief Tom Jones, firefighters were alerted to the fire at the home of the Paul Olson family at 9:58 a.m. The neighbor to the south of the house had seen lightning strike but had not realized a fire subsequently started. Jones said the neighbor to the north reported thunder shook the neighborhood.

"The fire started toward the roof," Jones said. The blaze did the most damage to the back room below the strike. Jones said that room was a total loss.

Passing motorist Samantha Lawson saw the smoke as the fire started. A friend of the family, Lawson called one of the Olson sisters to spread the word. Lawson called into the house and the nine-year-old, who had her 15-year-old sister's cell phone, answered. Lawson reported the nine-year-old said her room was filling with smoke. She was scared and could not exit due to fire by the doorway. Lawson was able to talk the girl through tears to go to a window and climb out.

The 15-year-old, who was also sleeping in at the house, was reached by phone by her father, thanks to Lawson's tip. Once alerted, the older girl was able to work her way out of the house as well.

Jones reported 12 firefighters worked the scene. The rest of the house sustained major smoke and heat damage. Firemen completed their efforts and returned to service after three hours and 32 minutes.

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