Lightning strikes ignited south Wichita house fires Thursday, fire officials confirm

07/10/2014 8:41 AM

08/06/2014 12:15 PM

Strong storms rolled through the Wichita area early Thursday morning, dumping more than 2 inches of rain in some parts of the city.

Two house fires about a block apart that were reported within minutes of each other were caused by lightning strikes, a Wichita Fire Department investigator said.

Thunderstorms “started rolling through right around 2 a.m.,” said Scott Smith, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wichita. “There was a lot of lightning – a whole lot.”

Houses in the 800 block and 900 block of South Seneca caught fire 12 minutes apart early Thursday morning, authorities said. One was reported at 2:34 a.m. and the other at 2:46 a.m.

Firefighters needed nearly three hours to extinguish the first fire at 824 S. Seneca. That blaze caused an estimated $65,000 in damage, Fire Capt. Stuart Bevis said.

The second fire was extinguished in less than an hour and caused considerably less damage.

Lightning may also be to blame for a fire that destroyed oil tanks near 127th Street East and 53rd Street North in Sedgwick County shortly after 4 a.m. Sedgwick County Fire Department officials did not respond to questions about the cause of the fire or offer a damage estimate.

Rain fell hard and fast early Thursday morning, Smith said, but no flooding issues were reported.

“Fortunately, not very many people were out” at those hours, he said.

The official recording station in southwest Wichita logged 1.47 inches of rain, Smith said. Multiple reporting sites in north Wichita topped 2 inches, however, with the highest being 2.32 inches.

Heavier rains were reported in central Kansas, with more than 4 inches falling in multiple locations in southwestern Ellis County. Great Bend reported 3.5 inches and Macksville receiving 3.3 inches. In northwest Kingman County, nearly 4 inches of rain fell.

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