Lightning strike damages former Lutheran church in Middle LaHave


  • <p>SOURCE: FACEBOOK/CANDICE DARES/RIVERPORT AND DISTRICT FIRE DEPARTMENT</p><p>Fire crews examine St. Mark&#8217;s Place in Middle LaHave where a fire broke out March 26.</p>

Sections of a water pump control panel went flying across the basement of the former St. Mark's Lutheran Church after a surge of energy caused by a lightning strike shattered the installation.

Pieces were everywhere, said Craig Cook, fire chief of Riverport and district volunteer fire department, whose responders were first to be summoned to the Middle LaHave address off Highway 332. Emergency crews were dispatched March 26 at 7:30 p.m.

Dispatch messages to responders indicated the old place of worship, which has since been converted to the event facility, St. Mark's Place, was hit by lightning at the steeple, and smoke was showing.

Parts of Lunenburg County were experiencing a burst of thunder-and-lightning weather at the time.

A March 27 statement posted online by St. Mark's Place credits first responders for their quick action. "Due to their great work, the fire was contained to the bell tower," reads the message on social media.

Cook said flames were showing on a one-and-a-half high, half-metre wide span on the south side of the building about eight metres off the ground. Water from a hand line off a truck wasn't going to cut it, so Riverport firefighters went at the blaze with fast-travelling, high-reaching volumes of water.

"We hit it with our deck gun immediately, and that knocked it down enough that we had time until an aerial [truck] got there," Cook told LighthouseNOW during a phone interview.

Ladder trucks, and personnel, from Lunenburg and Bridgewater volunteer fire departments worked the scene. Volunteer responders from Dayspring and LaHave districts also helped smother the flames.

It took about three hours before the incident was considered resolved. Emergency crews used thermal imaging technology to ensure fire didn't spread or had a potential to flare-up.

"We made entry through the front door and we had to go up a couple of different ladders and [through] hatches to get the little bit of fire that was inside," Cook added. "Most of the damage inside was smoke and water; everything was contained to the bell tower."

The bits of control panel in the basement found during the investigation were a consequence of the energy accompanying the strike, he suggested. Electricity in the neighbourhood was also temporarily lost during the storm.

No one was hurt.

The message posted online by St. Mark's Place said the incident resulted in electrical damage, but restoration work was mobilized, and anything needing repair would be fixed. St. Mark's internet post, and the fire chief, confirmed the site is insured.

Nearby residents felt and heard a "house-rattling crack" during the storm, Cook said, and noticed the problem at St. Mark's Place when they ventured outdoors.

"Thank God it wasn't in the middle of the night when everyone's asleep."

The cause of the fire is classified as natural in nature because human interaction had nothing to do with how the blaze started.

Meanwhile, across the LaHave River, in New Cumberland, a house sustained damage considered "minor" resulting from a lightning strike around the same time as the one at St. Mark's Place.

There was "no fire," Tony Allen, deputy chief of the Pleasantville volunteer fire department, told LighthouseNOW via text message, and "no one was hurt."

Thank you for printing this article from lighthousenow.ca. Subscribe today for access to all articles, including our archives!