Quick action by Penticton firefighters following lightning strike

Henry Degelder surveys damage to his neighbour's shed following a lightning strike to a tree on Degelder's property that touched off a fire on Friday.

PENTICTON - Penticton firefighters responded to a couple of structure fires over the weekend, starting with a lightning strike Friday afternoon which caused some anxious moments for residents of Huth Avenue.

Deputy Fire Chief Dave Spalding says lightning hit a tree and ignited a garden shed situated just below at about 2:30 p.m. during the thunderstorm which swept through the city Friday, May 29.

“We’re not sure if lightning struck the shed itself or whether burning embers from the tree ignited it,” Spalding says, adding firefighters found the structure fully engulfed in flames when they got to the scene.

Huth Avenue resident Henry Degelder says it “sounded like a bomb going off” when the lightning struck the tree, located in his backyard.

“I had just gone inside the house, because it had started to rain, when I heard it," Degelder says. "I went outside, and thought I could smell smoke, then I heard a neighbour yelling 'Fire.'"

The shed, located to one side of the tree, belonged to his neighbour. The backyards of four properties converged on the area around the tree, and as flames jumped from the shed, there were fears of other structures igniting.

“The fire department got here quickly, but it was still pretty hectic around here for a bit," Degelger says. "There were magnesium bullets going off — one landed in my yard. The shed had fuel cans in it and a propane tank." The propane vented and didn't explode.

He believes his neighbours lost a lot of equipment in the fire. A boat leaning against the building partially melted from the heat and a small garden trailerhad its front end melted.

“What are the chances?” Degelder asked. “I watched a couple of lightning strikes west of the city as the storm moved in, never would have expected this.”

He said the tree, which bears a long spiral scar half way up the trunk from the lightning, will have to be removed.

Penticton firefighters also responded to a call at 431 Winnipeg St. at 9:27 a.m. Sunday, May 31. A small fire had started on a fourth floor balcony. Spalding said the fire had nearly burned itself out by the time fire crews arrived on scene. They extinguished the blaze, which caused minimal damage.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad at sarstad@infonews.ca or call 250-488-3065. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

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