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Neighbors help couple after fire damages house

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Firefighters told homeowner lightning cause of fire

By Neal Cardin

As the sun beat down Sunday afternoon and high humidity made it seem hotter than it already was, a group of family, friends and neighbors of Kevin and Annette Smith helped move the Smith’s belongings from their fire-damaged house on Charlotte Circle into a detached garage for storage.

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A steady stream of people carrying clothes, furniture, and appliances quickly emptied the house as the noise from a portable generator supplied electricity to a camping trailer in the driveway, the Smiths’ residence for the time being.

Kevin Smith said he and his wife, Annette, were sitting in their house southwest of Elizabethtown at about 8:30 p.m. Saturday as storm clouds rolled through the area.

“We heard a loud noise and a bright flash that jarred the house and our (power) went off,” Kevin said. “We walked outside to see what the lightning had struck, thinking it was a tree or a pole. We realized everybody else’s lights were still on.”

Walking back into the house, Kevin said they could smell smoke. Upon looking into the attic through access stairs inside an attached garage, Kevin saw smoke and flames.

Kevin told Annette to call 911 while he took a water hose and started spraying the flames from the attic ladder. Kevin said Central Hardin Fire Department soon arrived and firefighters went to work tearing out parts of the ceiling to reach pockets of fire in several different spots in the attic.

“The firefighters worked hard and stayed until 3:30 this morning,” Annette said.

Central Hardin firefighters told the Smiths a bolt of lightning struck the house near where it connected to the garage, sparking the blaze.

The Smiths rested a few hours inside their gooseneck camper, then left to purchase a generator until they could connect power to the camper. Upon returning home, they could see smoke coming from the house again and called 911.

Kevin said firefighters found fire burning in another section of the attic away from where they worked before. They tore out more of the ceiling and quickly doused the last of the flames.

The moving crew walked around and through piles of insulation on the floor as they carried items to the storage shed. Parts of the ceiling were gone and blackened trusses were visible, many showing charring from the lightning and fire along with burnt wires.

Scott Kerr, pastor of Valley Creek Baptist Church and a friend of the Smiths, said he received word of the fire from a church member and then called Annette. She told Kerr of the circumstances and their need for help to clear the residence.

“I sent a text out to some of our guys to come help move,” Kerr said. “The guys knew there was a need and several showed up.”

After emptying the house, the workers gathered with the Smiths to form a circle. Ray Knight, Annette’s father, thanked all of the group and said his parents experienced three fires while he was growing up.

“Everybody survived then and we recovered,” he said. “Everybody survived this and the house can be repaired or replaced.”

Knight then asked Kerr to lead the group in prayer before dismissing.

As the workers began to leave, the Smiths gave thanks to the friends for all their work and efforts. Many asked in return if the family needed anything and to let them know if any more help is needed.

The Smiths plan on living in the camper while repairs take place.

Saturday’s storms caused the cancellation of a concert and fireworks at the Heartland Festival and also forced postponement of the John Hardin-Seneca football game until 7:30 p.m. tonight at John Hardin. The storm also damaged several trees in the area and area fire departments were responding to calls as a result of the lighting, heavy rain and strong winds.

Neal Cardin can be reached at 270-505-1753 or at ncardin@thenewsenterprise.com