Lightning strike causes fire at Monroe retirement community

Crews battle fire at Monroe retirement community
Posted at 7:26 PM, Aug 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-15 07:47:07-04

MONROE, Ohio -- A retirement community caught fire Saturday when it was struck by lightning, officials said.

The fire broke out at about 7 p.m. at an apartment building at The Mount Pleasant Retirement Village in Monroe. Police said no residents were trapped. 

Photo by Jonah Schlenk

Monroe Mayor Robert Routson said one resident suffered minor injuries, and a firefighter was also injured. The firefighter remained hospitalized Sunday afternoon. There is no additional information regarding their conditions. 

Routson said some neighbors rushed to the scene to try to evacuate residents.

Chief John Centers said firefighters faced some challenges evacuating the facility, as some of the residents are wheelchair bound. Additionally, the elevator shut down, and the lightning strike caused the sprinklers to malfunction. 

“They had a catastrophic failure of the sprinkler system," Centers said. "There is a sprinkler system in the attic space. It's a dry system. But based on reports we have gotten, some of the witnesses statements, we think just the lightning strike essentially impaired or completely rendered a useless sprinkler that way."

Emma Mehl, a resident of the retirement community, said she and her neighbors got out as quickly as they could.

“I just heard a terrible crash of thunder and lightning, and I shut the doors. Then I heard the alarm go off,” Mehl said.

Richard Walck was helping his mother move into the complex when lighting struck the facility.

"You could actually feel the electricity on your arms," Walck said.

Residents of the Mount Pleasant Retirement Village are staying at a sister facility tonight. About 69 people were evacuated, and about 10 people were initially unable to get out. 

Centers said the situation could have been a lot worse. 

“That fire is a career fire," Centers said. "That's not one you are going to see very often. You certainly aren't going to have situations where you have that number of people in harms way.”