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Lightning Strike Caused Fire At Student Apartment Complex

A lightning strike was the cause of a fire on Sunday at a Patton Township apartment complex, according to Centre Region fire officials.

Fire Director Steve Bair said on Monday that he and fire marshals are confident that lightning ignited the blaze at Tremont Student Living, 201 Vairo Boulevard, after confirming a strike and ruling out all other causes.

A series of thunderstorms moved through the area on Sunday afternoon and evening, including around the time of the fire.

Alpha Fire Company responded at 5:35 p.m. to Building F at the apartment complex, where smoke and flames were coming from the roof. Multiple companies were dispatched to the scene and the fire was controlled in about an hour.

No resident injuries were reported. One firefighter was taken to Mount Nittany Medical Center as a precaution for heat exhaustion and dehydration, but Bair said on Monday the firefighter was released and is doing fine. Bair said that heat and giving firefighters a chance to rest was a main reason the fire was raised to a third alarm.

Alpha Fire Chief Jason Troup said on Sunday that he did not believe any residents were home in the affected upper floor apartments at the time of the fire. Though the fire was contained to the roof and a few top floor apartments, a total of 24 units have been evacuated because of smoke and water.

Some of the student residents, however, are away for the summer. Bair said he believes about 15 residents have been displaced, but that the apartment complex managers were checking their records to verify who was staying for the summer the last he had spoken to them.

Bair said buildings are struck by lightning, “more often than we realize,” but that often the grounding of the building’s electrical system is enough to disperse the energy.

“Every now and then though the conditions are just right to cause a fire and that’s what happened in this case,” he said, also citing a fire several years ago on Sheller’s Bend that similarly burned out the roof of a house.

In addition to Alpha, Boalsburg, Pleasant Gap and Bellefonte’s Undine fire companies responded, as well as Centre LifeLink EMS, Fame EMS from Mifflin County, Alpha Fire Police and Patton Township Police. West Penn Power and Columbia Gas also were on the scene.

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About the Author

Geoff Rushton (StateCollege.com)

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.

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