Elderly woman survived lightning strike and house fire
AN ELDERLY woman miraculously survived after a lightning bolt struck her Moonee Beach home and sparked a house fire during the massive storm that hit the Coffs Coast.
Firefighters have since determined the Maccues Rd house fire last Friday was caused by a direct strike to an antenna on the roof of the home.
Remarkably, the woman aged in her 80s was standing on the ground floor and avoided contact with conductive surfaces, as the incredible surge of electricity travelled along cooper wiring inside the home and went to earth.
Power sockets were blown out, appliances were fried and a gas water heater caught fire with flames spreading to the top floor.
"One very lucky escape," Coffs Harbour Fire and Rescue Station Officer Mark Rose said.
"With a direct lightning strike we are talking about million to a million and a half volts.
"It's lucky she was on the lower floor, she was understandably very shaken after the fire, but very lucky she and her four cats weren't electrocuted.
"It's fortunate she was standing where she was, because it was so wet the electricity would have spread everywhere inside the home before it was earthed.
Within seconds, the water heater was on fire and flames travelled up through the wall cavity and engulfed the top floor kitchen.
Neighbours rushed to the woman's aid and called 000.
The home was well alight when firefighters reached the scene about 5.45pm.
"It was a tough fire to fight," Station Officer Rose said.
"It was a hurricane out there, like a mini cyclone, extreme wind gusts over 100km/h.
"As we were fighting the house fire, there were branches coming down around us, one large branch even crashed over the carport.
"In a freak stroke of luck, the strong winds actually stopped the fire from spreading.
"The winds were so strong they actually pushed the flames into a corner in the room and out a window.
"The woman was relieved when we found her four cats.
"The most important thing is that she survived the strike and got outside after the fire ignited," he said.