NewsPolk County


2019 extra active for lightning-related fires in Polk County, fire rescue says

Posted at 4:48 PM, Aug 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-06 18:35:53-04

LAKELAND, Fla. — If you’ve noticed the bright flashes and loud bangs of summer, you are not alone. Lightning, you could say, is Florida’s calling card.

“They have been really really close,” Cynthia Brown said. She has lived in Florida all of her life, but says she never remembers getting so much lightning and so close to home.

ABC Action News noticed the electric skies, especially in Polk County, and decided to find out just what kind of damage Florida storms are doing this year.

We were surprised to find out 2019 has been extra active. Polk County Fire Rescue tells ABC Action news there have been a total of 33 lightning-related fires in the last three years. 23 of those have happened in the last seven months.

See a list of fires with lightning strike as the heat source by year in the county HERE

“When that lightning that is so hot, it ignites, it’s a sure fire,” Joan Peterson said. She learned first hand in June when her neighbor on Pennsylvania Avenue in Lakeland lost her home due to a lightning strike. She heard a loud crack from inside her home-based barber shop and ran outdoors to see what had happened.

“I looked up and there were flames dancing out of the back of his roof line,” Peterson said.

Neighbors all along the street noticed, including Cynthia who says she does have surge protectors, but realized she should get serious before another storm comes through.

“It was pretty frightful,” she said.


According to Polk County Fire Rescue, you can avoid being injured during lighting storms. They recommend the following tips.

Thunder Storms and Outdoor Lightning Safety
•             When thunderstorms are in the area always head indoors.
•             Lightning can strike as far as 10 miles away from the storm.
•             If thunderstorms are forecasted plan to stay indoors.
•             If a substantial building is not nearby, an enclosed car or truck offers excellent protection from lightning.
•             If you are on the water seek the nearest shelter on shore.
Indoor Lightning Safety Tips
•             Stay off corded phones, computers and other electrical equipment that put you in direct contact with electricity. Lightning can travel through electrical systems and radio and television reception systems. However, cordless or cellular phones are safe to use during a storm.
•             Avoid using plumbing, including sinks, baths and faucets. Lightning can travel through plumbing.
•             Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
•             Do not lie on concrete floors, and do not lean against concrete walls.
•             Always make sure all smoke detectors are working with fresh batteries in case lightning sparks a fire.