CRANBERRY TWP -- Lightning from a short but severe rainstorm early this morning apparently sparked a fire at a township home, authorities said.
The fire badly damaged a three-story house at 150 Woodbine Road.
A family of three barely had time to get out safely after they realized their home was on fire about 3:30 a.m., said Chief Brian Kovac of the Cranberry Township Volunteer Fire Company.
“They had to get out right away,” Kovac said. “The fire went up pretty fast.”
The house is owned by Nikolas Little, who was not home at the time, and his wife, Cynthia Little, who was home with the couple's two adult sons, authorities said.
All three occupants had been sleeping, and Cynthia Little and one of her sons were awakened by the pounding storm and lightning flashes.
“They must have seen smoke or flames and knew there was a fire,” Kovac said. “They woke up (the third family member) and got out.”
Fire officials suspect a bolt of lightning struck the back of the house, causing a fire that quickly spread from the third floor to the attic.
“We were able to get a crew inside right away,” Kovac said. “Luckily, there was a hydrant in front of the house and that made our job easier.”
The storm, however, was another matter.
“We were soaking wet head to toe,” Kovac said. “It was raining so bad that it was hard just trying to talk on the radio.”
Cranberry Township and Zelienople firefighters driving to the house reported hearing the ping of hail hitting off their vehicles.
But they had the fire out within 30 minutes from the call.
Authorities estimated the damage at a minimum of $100,000. The house is insured. The family is temporally staying with relatives, authorities said.