Lightning Strikes

Integrated Fire SystemsFire & Life Safety Updates

How Common Are Fires Started By Lightning Strikes?

Warm summer rain turns into thunder and lightning storms. These storms can be beautiful and exhilarating to watch, but when lightning strikes it can  be harm people and the land that gets stuck in the storm.

Lightning Strike Facts

It was reported by NFPA that lightning caused an estimated annual average of the following between 2004-2008:

  • $407 million in direct property damage
  • 24,600 fires
  • 47 civilian injuries
  • 12 civilian deaths

House fires that are caused by lightning strikes are only 18% of all reported lightning fires. But, this small percentage of fires accounted for:

  • 88% of the associated civilian deaths
  • 77% of the associated injuries
  • 70% of the direct property damage

Lightning does not have to start a fire to cause fatalities. On average lightning causes 238 injuries per year and 38 deaths. NFPA reports that the most common places for lightning fatalities are:

  • Outside/Open Areas – 46%
  • Under Tree – 23%
  • Other/Unknown – 8%
  • Boat – 6%
  • Ball Field – 5%
  • Golfing – 5%
  • Camping – 4%
  • In Water – 2%
  • Heavy Equipment/Construction – 1%
  • At Telephone – 1%
Lightning and Wildfires

Lighting can strike at any time, but it is most dangerous when it strikes in the summer months. This is because this is when grass, brush, and trees dry out for the summer. Living in California we are always on alert for wildfires during these summer months. When summer storms hit, we all hope that a wildfire does not break out from a lightning strike.

According to NFPA, “outside and other fires accounted for 74% of the lightning fires reported to local fire departments”. Also, about 14% of all wildfires per year are started by lightning strikes. Although the minority of wildfires are started by lightning, they are more devastating than wildfires started by humans. NFPA states that the average wildfire started by lightning burns 500 acres, while the average wildfire started by human’s burns 40 acres.

Safety Tips

One of the most frightening things about lightning is that we cannot control where it strikes, or the damage that it does to our earth. But, we can be educated with safety tips to try and protect ourselves as much as possible.

NFPA recommends the following safety tips during thunder and lightning storms:

  • If you hear thunder, you are within striking distance of lightning. Look for shelter inside a home, large building, or a hard-topped vehicle right away.
  • Do not go under trees for shelter. There is no place outside that is safe during a thunderstorm.
  • Stay away from windows and doors. Stay off porches.
  • Turn off computers.
  • Stay off corded phones, computers, and other things that put you in direct contact with electricity or plumbing. You can use cordless electronics.
  • Do not wash your hands, bathe, shower, do laundry, or wash dishes.
  • There is no safe place outside. Places with only a room on sports fields, golf course, and picnic areas are not safe during a lightning storm. Small sheds should not be used.
  • Wait at least 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder before leaving your shelter.

If someone is struck by lightning call 9-1-1 immediately.

-The IFS Team