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Lightning fire displaced family of 7

LILBURN -- Putting his two small children to bed, the man heard a loud boom. Soon, they smelled smoke, then found another bedroom burning. The father fought the flames with a portable extinguisher, to no avail, officials said.

The family of seven called 911 and escaped Wednesday night, but the Lake Lucerne Drive home in Lilburn joined a host of others across Gwinnett rendered unlivable by lightning strikes this summer. In this case, no injuries were reported.

Lightning struck the home about 8:40 p.m. as a strong thunderstorm swept the area with gusty winds, heavy rain and intense lightning. Firefighters controlled the blaze about 10 minutes after arrival, but it caused heavy damage to the second floor and sent smoke, heat, and water throughout the structure, said Fire Department spokesman Capt. Thomas Rutledge.

The family denied Red Cross assistance, opting to stay with relatives and friends, Rutledge said.

Firefighters responded to several other reports that trees and wires were downed by the same storm.

The incident joins a string of lightning-caused fires this summer that, most recently, claimed a Winder church last month and a Tucker home last week. Rutledge suggests having a plan for severe weather.

"Check your home if you suspect a lightning strike and evacuate immediately if you detect smoke or fire," he advised. "If it's not your home, be sure to check outside in case the lightning hit a neighbors house."