Lightning strikes Altamont home

The Enterprise — Melissa Hale-Spencer

Making their way through billowing smoke, firefighters reach the roof of the house that was struck by lightning.

ALTAMONT — As thunder storms swept through the area, no one was home when lightning struck the house at 206 Main St. in Altamont on Sunday night, said Paul Miller, chief of the Altamont Volunteer Fire Department. 

Bob Nopper, owner of Village Pizza, had been his shop with about a dozen others when the storm came through. “It was pretty intense,” Nopper said. “The lightning was going off like crazy.”

Then, Nopper said, a thunder clap shook the building a bit. He had thought a utility pole was downed, he said. Two or three minutes after the thunder clap, Nopper said Joseph Vinette, who had been working at Stewart’s at the time, called over to tell Nopper — a firefighter for 25 years — that the house next door to his building was on fire. 

Nopper ran up to the hill to one house past the one next door, the one the lightning had struck, to make sure no one was inside. 

As he was running up Main Street, he could see smoke billowing from the eves of the home, he said. There were no cars in the driveway. 

He pounded on the front door, there was no answer; the door locked. 

He ran around to the back door, which had been unlocked, he said, he stepped inside and yelled, “Anybody home? This is the fire department … Your house is on fire, you gotta get out.”

There was no answer. 

He then whistled to see if there were any pets in the home; there was no response. He then closed the back door to the home. By then, Altamont’s fire chief had pulled up and Nopper conveyed to him the situation, because, Nopper said, he had to get back to work at his own shop. 

“They did an awesome job,” Nopper said of his fellow firefighters. “They were very quick getting there … And put [the fire] out very quickly.”

 

The Enterprise — Melissa Hale-Spencer
Tankers from New Salem and Altamont fill a quickly-constructed reservoir at the base of the escarpment.

 

The 9-1-1 call came in around 7:21 p.m., Miller said. 

As darkness fell, smoke billowed from the second story and fire trucks from Altamont, Berne, Guilderland, Knox, and New Salem converged on the scene.

Miller estimated that 30 firefighters responded to the call. Two firefighters were treated and released at the scene; one had Sheetrock fall on his head and the other suffered from heat exhaustion. 

The rain had caused an exodus from the nearby Altamont Fair and police and firefighters were busy diverting traffic from the intersection. A score of onlookers, several with umbrellas, gathered in the Stewart’s parking lot across the street to watch.

Firefighters set up a large yellow container, a portable pond, and pumped water from an Altamont tanker into it. These portable ponds act as a back-up water supply because not enough water is available from the hydrants, Miller said.

 

The Enterprise — Melissa Hale-Spencer
Firefighters walk down Route 156, carrying a hard-suction hose to transport water, while behind them other volunteers climb to the roof of the burning house.

 

By eight o’clock, a New Salem tanker arrived and added more water. A similar reservoir was constructed up the hill, closer to the house.

Firefighters ran their hoses to the reservoirs.

At the same time, other firefighters were hoisted to the burning roof of the house by a ladder truck and worked their way through the thick smoke to the roof of the house. They placed a ladder on the roof to give them support as they cut a hole in the roof to vent it.

It took about an hour to completely extinguish the fire, Miller said, while it took National Grid about three hours from the time the call came in, 7:21 p.m., to shut down power to the house. 

The Albany County assessment rolls say the property at 206 Main St. is owned by Keeha Legg and has a full-market value of $203,000. Legg could not be reached for comment. 

There had been significant water damage to 206 Main St., Miller said, making re-occupation of the home unlikely.


Melissa Hale-Spencer contributed reporting

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