Early morning fires likely caused by lightning

Firefighters work at the scene of a house fire on Donna Circle near Stormstown on Saturday, July 18, 2015.
Firefighters work at the scene of a house fire on Donna Circle near Stormstown on Saturday, July 18, 2015. CDT photo

At least two fires reported Saturday morning may have been caused by lightning, according to fire officials.

And the near record-breaking rain wasn't much help in extinguishing the flames and smoke.

Alpha Fire Chief Jeff Martin said crews were dispatched to 3120 W. Pine Grove Road between Ramblewood and Pennsylvania Furnace about 5 a.m. for a barn that was engulfed in flames.

“The barn was gone by the time we arrived,” Martin said. “It was a complete loss.”

Martin said the barn was located on vacant property, and only stored one small tractor and a lawnmower.

It was owned by a family who also owns a farmhouse nearby. The family is renovating the property into a bed and breakfast, Martin said.

No one was in the barn or farmhouse at the time of the fire, Martin said.

Martin said a fire marshal who investigated the barn fire believed it was caused by lightning.

By 7:30 a.m. Alpha fire crews extinguished the fire, and were then called to assist Port Matilda Volunteer Fire Company with a house fire on Donna Circle, Martin said.

A firefighter on scene said that incident also may have been caused by lightning, which led to heavy smoke.

Craig Evanego, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in State College, said the service doesn’t record the number of lightning strikes, but he considered it “a pretty active night.”

“We did hear some fires were started by lightning,” Evanego said.

A storm rolled through Centre, Clearfield, northern Blair and northern Huntingdon counties overnight Saturday that caused some standing water in fields, but no reports of flooding, Evanego said.

“Everything came from west to east,” Evanego said. “A storm had entered western Pennsylvania late (Thursday) evening and crossed the state overnight. There was wave after wave of storms.”

The Walker Building on Penn State’s campus recorded 1.47 inches of rain from midnight to 9 a.m., Evanego said.

Other rain reports included 1.88 inches 2 miles south of Philipsburg, 2.73 inches in Clarence, 2.88 inches in Grays Woods, and 3.11 inches of rain in Stormstown.

The last daily rain record held came at 1.98 inches in 1903 at Penn State, according to the NWS.