Lightning strike cause of Columbia house fire

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Pictured is the Eckerty house on South Rapp Avenue in Columbia following a lightning strike. (Corey Saathoff photo)

A late morning severe thunderstorm Saturday caused a flurry of activity for Columbia firefighters, who called in Millstadt, Dupo and Waterloo fire departments for reinforcements.

The activity began following a direct lightning strike about 11:30 a.m., creating an orange fireball that could be seen from miles away.

Columbia firefighters responded to Rapp Avenue for flames showing from the upper floor of a home, as reports of downed lines and flooded streets continued to pour in.

Upon firefighter arrival, the 1.5-story home at 507 South Rapp had flames coming from the attic, the result of a direct lightning strike.

“We saw the flash (of the lightning) but thought it hit a nearby tree,” said homeowner Charlie Eckerty.

He went upstairs and saw flames, and evacuated his wife, Chrissy, and their dog.

Millstadt firefighters assisted at the scene in knocking down the fire, and checking the ceilings and walls to check for hidden hot spots.

Firefighters also responded to a report of the smell of smoke in a home in the Brellinger subdivision.

In addition to Columbia, Millstadt, Waterloo and Dupo fire departments, Monroe County Sheriff’s Department deputies and a number of road district commissioners assisted with traffic control and debris removal following the storm.

No injuries were reported.

Among other Columbia storm-related incidents:
• A utility pole on Cherry Street caught fire.
• Valmeyer Road near First Baptist Church was completely underwater.
• Admiral Parkway in front of McDonald’s flooded.
• Live wires fell onto a car on South Main Street.
• There was standing water on the roadway at Bluff and Hanover roads.
• Heavy rain washed away dirt and rock at Oak and Main Street where the city is working on water mains, creating a deep hole.
• There were a number of reports of debris and standing water on Bluff Road.
• The traffic signal was out at Admiral and Veterans parkways near McDonald’s.

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