IRVINGTON, NJ — On Tuesday, June 8, high winds, heavy rain, rolling bouts of thunder and dangerous bolts of lightning passed through Irvington, where lightning struck the three-story home at 1293 Springfield Ave., sparking an intense house fire toward the roof of the home and causing smoke to billow from the home. The inside of the home sustained substantial damage. There were a number of people inside the house when the lightning struck, but luckily no one was hurt. Now, due to the intense blaze, the house is uninhabitable.
“Lightning struck the rear side of the structure at roof level at 1293 Springfield Ave. between the estimated time of 3:40 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. We received the call from dispatch at 3:48 p.m.,” Irvington Fire Division Deputy Director John Brown said on June 14. “Several residents were home in the entire three-family house; however, no one was injured.
“There was excessive fire damage to the third-floor apartment and at least a quarter of the second-floor apartment towards the rear of the structure,” he continued. “Large sections of the roofing materials on the third floor and the structural members were consumed by the fire. The flat portion of the roof for the second floor sustained a localized collapse on the southeast side of the structure. The home is not habitable. Between fire damage, water and smoke damage, this fire displaced the entire household.”
The families are receiving assistance from the Red Cross, Brown said, though he did not have additional information.
According to Brown, there is not much that can be done to prevent house fires caused by lightning strikes.
“In an article published on July 19, 2019, found on nola.com, the National Weather Service reports lightning starts about 4,400 house fires each year,” Brown said. “This was an act of nature. There is really nothing anyone can do specifically to avoid this.”
American Red Cross–New Jersey communications director Diane Concannon explained that Red Cross no longer places families needing assistance, but the organization instead helps financially.
“We provide financial assistance so the families can decide where they’d like to stay,” Concannon said on June 14. “Sometimes people would like to stay by family members in a nearby town or they want to stay in town because of school — it all depends. But this financial assistance gives them the choice to stay where they wish. How much financial assistance depends on each family. It’s emergency financial assistance to help with temporary lodging, and things such as food, clothing, other immediate needs. We have disaster health services as well as disaster mental health services available, and those are thanks to volunteers who are experts in that field that will provide that assistance.”
According to Concannon, the public can help the Red Cross with its mission by donating at www.redcross.org/nj.
“The Red Cross doesn’t set up GoFundMes for particular families, but disaster relief will help all families affected by disasters big and small,” Concannon said. “When you donate to the Red Cross and you donate to disaster relief, this is what it helps pay for. It helps provide financial assistance for families that have undergone a disaster, such as a home fire or a hurricane. This is all thanks to donors.”
While house fires cannot always be prevented, Concannon encourages people, especially children, to learn what to do in the event of a house fire.
“Right now, you could go to redcross.org/preparenj, and there are videos, links, free tools and resources to help prepare yourself and your family about what to do if there should be a home fire,” Concannon said. “There are things (you can do), such as create and practice your fire escape plan, which should be under two minutes. We do see a lot of fires in the middle of the night. Another thing is to make sure you have working smoke alarms. That’s very important.”
Photos Courtesy of Toni Yates