Lightning likely to blame for fire in Racine - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Lightning likely to blame for fire in Racine

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RACINE, Minn. (KTTC) -- Lightning is likely to blame for starting a fire Friday morning in Racine, but it was put out by a quick-thinking homeowner.

Stewartville crews responded to a home at 205 Lincoln Drive Northeast just after 6:30 a.m.

Larry Mueller, assistant fire marshal for the Rochester Fire Department, said a lightning strike ruptured a gas line, which blew flames into the home's first floor.

"The dogs went crazy," said homeowner Richard Fakler. "There was a huge sound of thunder."

Richard and his wife Courtney bolted to the bedroom door when they heard the smoke detectors. 

"My first thought was 'get to the kids, get to the kids' and I ran upstairs and said to my daughter, run downstairs! Run outside!" said Courtney Fakler. 

Richard rushed down to the utility room, where he saw the cause for the alarms.

"All of a sudden you see some light, and you look up, and in the gas line is like a blow torch, just shooting out," he said. 

Turns out, a corrugated gas line, that was supposed to be grounded, had been ignited by a lightning strike.

Racine Community Utilities employee Ed Doherty was on scene in the morning. 

"The lightning strike hit the house and ran through the electrical, and somehow it got onto the duct work of the furnace, and the gas pipe, the flex pipe that's down there, arced across and burnt a hole through the flex," he said. 

With the fire department on its way and the fire spreading, Richard took things into his own hands, putting out the fire with an extinguisher and turning off the gas valves. Meanwhile, Courtney had all kids and pets out safely. 

"If Rich wouldn't have been thinking on his feet, it would have been really dangerous," Courtney said. 

Now, a fine layer of soot covers many of their belongings and open windows are coaxing out the lingering smoky smell.

As for the fire extinguisher, Richard said he's never used one before and hopes this is the last time. 

Estimated damage is about $2,000 but the Stewartville Fire Department said it would've been much worse if not for Fakler's actions.

The Faklers are still working things out with the insurance companies and a cleaning crew. 

They may be out of their home for several weeks, but they say working smoke detectors, along with fire safety at school, have definitely paid off.

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