Lightning may have caused Johns Island house fire, officials say

JOHNS ISLAND, SC - Investigators says a lightning strike during a heavy storm Thursday night may have caused a large house fire on Johns Island.

Emergency crews were called out to a house fire at the 4000 block of Hope Plantation Road on Johns Island Thursday. Fire officials believe the fire started around 7 p.m.

Chuck Hanssen says he was steaming crabs at the time of the storm when he heard a "very sharp crack."

"It just started raining and I heard this tremendous explosion... it was frightening to that extent," said Hanssen. "It was so bright, it was hard to tell where it was coming from or where it was going."

The St. Johns Fire Department says they arrived at the scene in the 4000 block of Hope Plantation Road to find heavy smoke and flames coming from the home.

Hanssen says he brushed off the lightning strike as a close call, but then he started to smell smoke. While taking a walk with his daughter in law, they ran across a fireball.

"It was just massive flames from one side of the porch to the other," said Hanssen, who lives two houses down from the home.

Officials say no one was at home at the time of the fire, but the structure of the home quickly deteriorated making it dangerous for firefighters. Roughly 45 firefighters responded to the call.

"We had a partial collapse at the rear and the roof, we also had a collapse of the front porch," said Chief James Ghi. "It was really dangerous for the firefighters to go in there."

Firefighters fought the flames for close to two hours and stayed over night to put out flare ups.

Chief Ghi says there is more work to be done to determine an exact cause, but a lightning strike remains on the top of their list.

"We actually take a look at the weather pattern, lightening strikes and things like that," said Ghi. "We're able to use the National Weather Service to get a really good, not pinpoint, but very close to where there was a lightning strike."

The fire is still under investigation.

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