A thunderstorm with lightning blew through the Lombard Street and Memorial Drive neighborhood in Buffalo around 9:30 Tuesday morning and right around that time the house at 25 Lombard started burning. "I heard it when it went 'boom!' and that was it," says Peggy Binton who lives a few houses away.
Other residents of Lombard Street say the lightning seemed to be right on top of them. "There was maybe two strikes but the one was extremely loud," says Diane Gadomski, a Lombard Street resident.
Residents soon spotted smoke at one of the houses. Neighbors tell Eyewitness News the woman who lives in the burning house is a nurse who had just arrived home from her overnight shift and hadn't even made her way inside her house yet. "She got out of her car and asked what was wrong and they told her the house was on fire," says Gadomski.
Firefighters arrived and quickly made their way inside but then clutter slowed them down. "What we encountered inside is what we call a Collyer's Mansion condition, which just means there's just a lot of stuff packed into the first floor and in the attic," says Buffalo Fire Department Division Chief Scott Barry.
The way the house was built with hollow ceilings and walls is typical for that part of Buffalo but it also presented some problems. "What often happens is there's fire in a room and the fire is able to get into the walls or ceiling. It looks like we've extinguished the fire when we hit it with water the first time but then when our guys with the axes and poles go in to start making holes in the walls and the ceiling we find more fire," says Barry.
Although no one was hurt neighbors say the home owner is devastated. She's now homeless and she lost a lifetime of belongings. "She was born and raised in this house," says Gadomski, "She's going to need help. She has no insurance on the house, so she's going to need help from whoever can give it to her."
Investigators say so far they've determined the fire started in the kitchen but their investigation into the exact cause is on-going.