Linda Dwyer was asleep at Thursday at 1:30 a.m. when her home’s chimney exploded.
“I heard this big, loud crash and I looked out the bedroom window,” said Dwyer. “I was thinking, ‘What are these things scattered all over the ground?'”
Peering through the driving rain outside, she saw that those things were bricks and pieces of stone that used to be the chimney of her two-story home at 201 Herrick Road in Riverside. They were now scattered in a pile on the lawn and in the bushes on the east side of her home.
But that was just the beginning of the problem. She went downstairs and could smell the soot that had been knocked loose and down into the living room fireplace. Then she noticed something that smelled like burning electrical wires. Then the smoke alarms went off. The house was on fire.
The family ran in the rain across the street to a neighbor’s home and called 911. No one was injured.
When firefighters arrived, they saw smoke and flames coming from an area above the garage at the front of the house. They quickly doused the fire and determined that it had been contained to a small area inside the exterior wall of the house.
“We were pleased that we were able to knock it down with extinguishers and that the house wasn’t full of smoke,” said Capt. Bill Sherman of the Riverside Fire Department. “The thing that did surprise me was that the house was hit on one side, and the fire started on the other side of the house.”
They concluded that lightning had struck the chimney, but the electrical current traveled all the way across the front of the home through a TV cable antenna to an office above the garage, where it ignited insulation and wood framing inside the wall.
Apart from the dramatic scene playing out on Herrick Road, there were few other storm-related emergency calls in Riverside Thursday morning. A tree fell across wires leading to a home on West Avenue and a large limb from a mature tree crashed to the ground near a home on Fairbank Road.