Hamilton County firefighters busy when lightning strikes

This house in Westfield caught fire Sunday after a lightning strike.

Indiana ranks 11th in the country, for the amount of property damage caused by lightning. We've seen the evidence of what lighting can do all too often this week with a number of house fires, primarily north of Indianapolis in Hamilton County.

"They heard a big bang, didn't think much of it," said John Barrett with the Westfield Fire Department.

But that bang was lightning hitting a Westfield home sparking a serious fire. Kesha Kelly lives only about four doors down and was home when the lightning bolt hit her neighbor's home.

"We heard a big bang," said Kelly.

At first, she thought it was her home that was struck by the bolt.

"I saw a lot of smoke here on the front porch and then I took my gaze across the street and saw the house engulfed in flames. I turned around and yelled 'Fire!' and told my husband to call 911," said Kelly.

"In Hamilton County, when we get a lightning storm or a storm rolls through, we get extremely busy," said Barrett.

Westfield firefighters were very busy Sunday, responding to multiple calls around the county for lightning strikes when the storms rolled through. From Westfield to Carmel to Fishers and even nearby Zionsville in Boone County overnight, lightning has sparked more than a normal amount of house fires in recent days.

"We do have more fires when there is lightning and the storms," said Deanna Matthews with the Fishers Fire Department.

While Matthews says their numbers don't show any more lightning here than in other places, they do see an increased number of lightning-induced fires than neighboring areas.

"It's been suspected that because of the new construction and the new natural barriers, the trees being smaller and the houses being larger and the flat area with the new construction, we think that may have something to do with it," said Matthews.

So, what can you do to protect your home? Gone are the days of those giant lightning rods you used to see on the tops of houses. Now, there are lightning protection systems you can't see. They don't repel the lightning or attract it, but if lightning does hit the house, it will direct the electricity to the ground.

"Is it a lack of education or something we've put behind us, but it would definitely something to look into," said Matthews.

If you live on a hill or flat land where your home is the tallest thing around or where lightning has struck a nearby home, you're in a high-risk area and may want to consider getting a lightning protection system.