St. Petersburg Times
Fire from lightning destroys residence
A Belleair Shore couple heard the strike, but thought their home was safe with its lightning rods. Now, only a shell remains.
By TAMARA EL-KHOURY
Published July 25, 2005
BELLEAIR SHORE - Lew Bennett was sitting on his bed, getting dressed about 4 a.m. Sunday when he heard a cannon-like boom rock his house.
His wife Betty raced into the room. "Did you hear that?" she asked.
"I couldn't help but hear it," Bennett said he told her. "But you need not worry, we have those (lightning) rods on the house."
The rods offered no protection.
A fire sparked by a lightning strike destroyed the Bennetts' $4-million, gulffront Belleair Shore home, but the couple did not discover the damage immediately.
In an interview Sunday night, Bennett recalled what happened.
Normally, he said, they would have been asleep.
But Sunday Lew Bennett, 78, was up early to catch a 6:55 a.m. flight to New York City.
He wondered if otherwise he and wife would have survived the blaze.
Bennett said he knew lightning had struck the home, but wasn't concerned.
Isn't that what he put lightning rods on his roof for?
He searched the house for smoke or any sign of damage.
He even pulled out a flashlight to search the attic. Their smoke detectors didn't go off.
The Bennetts detected a faint smell of metal in the exercise room, but thought it came from the lightning rods.
They left for the airport.
As his wife dropped him off, Bennett said he told her to pass by the fire house on Indian Rocks Road and ask them what to do.
She couldn't reach anyone so early and headed back home.
Something didn't smell right and she called 911.
Bennett was getting ready to board his plane when his daughter, who lives in St. Petersburg, called.
"Dad, your house is burning up," she told him.
Bennett immediately returned to the house.
The firefighters who answered Betty Bennett's 911 call at 5:47 a.m. found the attic on fire.
Three ladder trucks, seven engines and two rescue squads from Largo, Clearwater, Seminole and the Pinellas Suncoast Fire Department responded to the call, said district Chief Rick Walker.
The fire was declared under control at 7:15 a.m. The roof was gone.
Bennett credited firefighters for doing their best to keep the house from burning down, but he said only a shell remains of his home of seven years.
The couple plans on rebuilding and staying in an apartment until then.
Bennett is keeping a positive outlook. "It beats crying," he said.
The lightning rods weren't enough, said Nick Petros, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Ruskin.
All the rods do is give lightning an easy path to get to the earth, he said.
"In terms of causing damage, such as starting fires, there's really not much you can do to prevent that," he said. "Lightning is going to take the path of least resistance to get to the ground. Unfortunately, homes sometimes get in the way."
Bennett is determined to rebuild.
"That's what I kept telling my wife," Bennett said. "We got each other, we have great kids. They all came and helped. The neighbors were wonderful."
[Last modified July 25, 2005, 01:12:19]
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08-07-2005, 05:18 PM #1
Lightning Sparks Fire--Destroys Bellair Shores Home09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
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The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.
08-09-2005, 10:11 PM #2
Hey, one of our fires made the news.
LOTS of fire, I was half expecting for that house to be on the ground. But some agressive work by the crews and a well placed aerial did the job. Most lines Ive pumped in years (well, I supervised a new engineer ). 2- 1 3/4 lines, 2- 3" wyed into 2" lines and of course the aerial.
I hope to have some photos soon to post.Fire Marshal/Safety Officer
"No his mind is not for rent, to any god or government"
Success is when skill meets opportunity
Failure is when fantasy meets reality
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