Blame Mother Nature For Fire

April 20, 2011 Updated Apr 20, 2011 at 2:16 PM EDT

By Jaclyn Asztalos

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April 20, 2011 Updated Apr 20, 2011 at 2:16 PM EDT


Orchard Park Fire Officials blame Mother Nature for a blaze that destroyed an apartment building.

"We heard a big crash and I thought we were having a big storm," one displaced resident said.

District Fire Chief Dan Neaverth Jr. said it was more than just a spring rainstorm. Lightning hit an apartment building on Carriage Drive setting the attic on fire, early Wednesday morning.

"It was the lightning strike that woke homeowners. They got up to investigate. They thought they smelled smoke but didn't see anything. They couldn't get back to sleep so there was a time lapse before they actually saw physical signs of fire and called 911," Neaverth said.

Four of the 10 units in the building were totally destroyed, One unit had moderate damage and another five units were filled with smoke.

One displaced resident told here story but she said that she was so upset, she didn't want to be on camera.

"We came in and saw the devastation here. It is just awful and unbelievable. There's no ceiling or roof. The Red Cross came. Thank God. They helped us to feel a little better," the displaced resident said.

Fire officials said the damage was so severe, not only because of the delay response time, but they also said there were some other challenges.

"This fire was intense, not only with the lightning on the building but the lightning in the area in the course of the fire fight. As a result, we had people in high up devices that we had to bring down on the platform for their own safety, then put them back up in addition to the crews we sent inside. It was a mixed bag from Mother Nature," Neaverth said.

Luckily, no one was injured but some people say there are sentimental items that may never be recovered.

"I'm just heart-wrenched and very sad. There are things I need out of there like my children's' pictures and my grandmother's things. I don't know if I can get them," the displaced resident said.

Neaverth said this is a very rare occurrence, especially in Orchard Park.

"It's the first time I've experienced a building struck by lightening where the fire extended this much. We have buildings struck on a regular basis with moderate fire but this was really intense," Neaverth said.

Now, residents are picking up the pieces of their lives that have been spared by Mother Nature.

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