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Lightning triggers Norcross house fire

NORCROSS -- Lightning struck near a Norcross home about two hours before fire fully erupted Friday morning, officials said.

Residents called 911 at about 1:40 a.m. Friday after being awakened by smoke alarms. Three adults escaped unharmed before firefighters arrived to find flames burning in the attic and right side of the home, fire department spokesman Capt. Tommy Rutledge said.

"Firefighters made immediate entry inside the home and quickly controlled the fire," Rutledge said. "The fire was contained to the attic over the master bedroom and caused significant charring to wood members throughout the attic space."

No injuries were reported.

Officials believe the blaze was triggered by lightning that struck a backyard tree some two hours earlier. The lightning strike reportedly tripped several electrical breakers in the home, but, upon inspection, the homeowner found no signs of smoke and did not call the fire department.

"Lightning can travel inside the home and spark a smoldering fire in the insulation or wooden support members," Rutledge said. "The fire may be difficult to detect until it grows in intensity."

Homeowners who suspect a lightning strike to their home should check the attic and basement and, if no smoke is visible, "feel the walls in each of the rooms for heat or an odor of smoke." Rutledge said lightning will typically strike the highest point of the home or hit something nearby -- like a fence, tree or pole -- and travel into the home via pipes, electrical lines or gas lines.

"Surge protectors and lightning rods are good deterrents," Rutledge said, "but there is no guarantee that lightning won't strike."