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Afternoon lightning spurs fires

DULUTH -- A lightning strike caught a Duluth townhome on fire Wednesday afternoon, one of three lightning-related blazes within an hour during the day's pop-up thunderstorms, Gwinnett fire officials said.

Firefighters responded to the townhome on the 2500 block of Summit Cove Drive in Duluth around 3:40 p.m. Wednesday, with heavy smoke coming from the two-story structure, Gwinnett fire spokesman Capt. Tommy Rutledge said.

Nobody was home at the time, and a neighbor called 911 after smelling smoke during the brief thunderstorm, Rutledge said.

The fire, caused by "an apparent lightning strike to the end unit," Rutledge said, caused "extensive damage" to the unit. The adjoining unit suffered only light residual smoke damage.

Only a few minutes prior to responding in Duluth, Gwinnett County firefighters were in Lawrenceville fighting a shed fire also caused by severe weather.

Just after 3:30 p.m, they responded to a home on the 2500 block of Old Peachtree Road. A lightning strike appeared to have caught fire to two large trees leaning against the shed behind the home, sparking the fire that moved to the 16-by-20 foot outbuilding, Rutledge said.

Residents were not home at the time and no injuries were reported.

Just down the road on the 1800 block Charleston Oak Circle, firefighters contained another shed fire caused by lightning strike at approximately 3:16 p.m.

The blaze caused minor damage. No injuries were reported, Rutledge said.