Lightning sparks Bucks Co. house fire

May 21, 2008 8:47:12 PM PDT
The fear of many homeowners came true for a Bucks County family tonight, as a lightning strike during thunderstorms tonight set their house ablaze. The chances of that happening are remote, but it's exactly what happened to one of the oldest buildings in Newtown, Pennsylvania. The stone farmhouse on Gauck Lane is known as Dolington Manor. It's nearly 300 years old, and many neighbors knew of its former splendor.

"It's just a gorgeous old stone house, huge wooden floors? it was beautiful," said Patti Devlin, of Newtown.

The fire started at 5:15 p.m. and firefighters had it under control in about 30 minutes. By 8 p.m., the sun was peeking through the burnt beams of the manor's still smoldering roof.

Describing the conditions Newtown firefighters were up against, Chief Andy Errico said the "first two crews in really got knocked with heat and smoke." Friends say the family that lives in the manor moved in just a few years ago and worked hard on doing renovations. They were not home at the time the lightning bolt struck. Their two dogs were there, but both got out okay. Fire officials say the second floor of the house is still structurally sound, but the fire burnt through the attic.

Last year in Newtown another house was set on fire because of a lightning bolt.

"When these summertime storms come through we can get hit any day," said Chief Errico.

On this day, just a few minutes before the manor house was hit, just around the corner, Patti Devlin and her son heard a thunderous boom.

"It was huge we started screaming we didn't know what was going on," recounts Devlin.

What had happened was her favorite tree on her property, a tree more than a century old, was also hit by lightning. Unfortunately, it came crashing down onto her roof, shattering windows and leaving chunks of debris across her backyard. But she says she feels lucky, because it could have been worse.

"We have only window damage. It doesn't look like we have too much structural damage and we can live in our house," Devlin said.

The owners of the manor are not in the same situation. Their home has extensive water damage, with estimates as much as $100,000 needed in repairs. A teenage boy who lives at the home told Action News he is just happy his family is safe, and he will be living with relatives for six months while the house is fixed.