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Lightning Strike Likely Responsible For Willow Ave. Complex Fire

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Lightning Strike Likely Responsible For Willow Ave. Complex Fire

It sounded like a bomb.

That’s how one witnesses described the lightning strike at Cookeville’s Eagle Summit Apartments Friday morning. No injuries reported by the roof sustained significant fire damage.

Fire Chief Benton Young said the living areas suffered water damage with the worst damage on the third floor directly under the fire.

“All indications it was a lightning strike,” Young said. “And those fires are very difficult to fight because it’s above any sprinkler systems. And you’ve got instant combustion there whenever that lightning hits. So it’s a very hard fire to fight.”

Young said the construction of the building helped. He said it had double thick fire walls between sections of the attic which allowed firefighters to acces the area and get setup before it spread further.

The complex sits across the street from the Tech campus. Tennessee Tech officials said at least 11 students were impacted by the fire.

“The university has set aside space in the Marc L. Burnett Student Recreation & Fitness Center for impacted students to come and meet with Student Affairs and, if they wish, the Counseling Center,” According to a Tennessee Tech Release. “Food is being provided and Student Affairs staff are speaking one-on-one with students to learn of their needs and offer support including temporary housing, care packages and essential supplies, absence notifications, and accommodations for final exams.”

The thunderstorm moved through Cookeville around 5:30am Friday morning. Though not severe, the storm did feature a lot of lightning. Fire and police units were on the scene within three minutes after the emergency call. Young said coordinated efforts between police and Fire Departments allowed them to evacuate the building and fight the fire almost simultaneously.

“Our biggest thing is life safety,” Young said. “We want to make sure everyone it out of the building and accounted for. That’s our primary goal. Once we’ve got that done we can focus on fighting the fire.”

Meantime, Young said the cleanup already underway at the complex.


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