An intense lightning strike during a severe thunderstorm late Monday night sparked a house fire in Shawnee and destroyed the home belonging to a former major league baseball player and his family, firefighters said.
Shawnee Fire Department Battalion Chief Tony Wittman said the fire department responded about 11:30 p.m. to the home in the area of Bryan Avenue and Bradley Street.
Shawnee firefighters arrived on scene within three to four minutes, Wittman said. The home's occupant, Ryan Franklin, told firefighters he and his family exited the home safely after hearing a “deafening boom” from a lightning strike, Wittman said.
That lighting strike knocked down a portion of the home's columns and the chimney also was blown off, Wittman said, with crews arriving to a working fire with visible smoke in the eaves and on the second floor.
Crews with hoses entered the large home to battle the blaze before encountering heavy black smoke that forced them out, he said.
With no fire hydrants close to that home, he said crews had to use water from tankers. The first 2,750 gallons of water used to fight the blaze “didn't even phase it,” Wittman said.
Crews cut a hole in the roof, he said, and with help from Meeker, Bethel and Tecumseh firefighters, a water shuttle relay was set up to the nearest fire hydrant about one-half to three-fourths mile away.
Wittman, who said the assisting fire departments did an outstanding job with that water relay, said crews provided firefighters battling the blaze about 1,000 gallons of water every minute for about three hours.
Despite all efforts, the home was a total loss. Crews were on the scene until about 5 a.m. Wednesday, Wittman said.
As crews battled that overnight blaze and storms were still ongoing, firefighters also responded to check the building of The Regency Skilled Nursing Center at Bryan and Independence, where another lightning strike was reported. In that case, he said there was no fire.
In addition to the lightning, heavy winds impacted the area as well. There were damage reports involving a private boat dock and boat at Shawnee Twin Lakes, said Don Lynch, Shawnee/Pottawatomie County Emergency Management director.
Watch for updates.