NORTHWEST FORSYTH — Instead of getting food and presents ready, one family in northwest Forsyth awoke Christmas Eve morning to find their home ablaze as a storm dumped heavy rain and lightning across the area.
Neither of the two adults inside was injured in the house fire off Heardsville and Frix roads. The couple does not have pets.
According to Forsyth County Fire Division Chief Jason Shivers, the fire began on the roof of the 6,000-square-foot, multi-story home, likely caused by a lightning strike.
Firefighters worked to salvage the house and its contents — the extent of the “significant damage” was not clear Thursday afternoon — shortly after 10 a.m. and into the afternoon.
The size of the house, its custom-built layout with “numerous void spaces beneath the roof” and its heavy timber-style construction made the fire challenging to contain, Shivers said.
About 50 personnel from Forsyth and the fire department in nearby Cherokee County responded to the scene, where units had to remain cautious for collapses within the structure.
The response included six Forsyth and two Cherokee engine companies, one Cherokee and two Forsyth tankers and an ambulance. Also on hand were six chief officers — four from Forsyth and two from Cherokee.
According to Shivers, there is no fire hydrant on the half-mile long road that leads to the house, so tankers were constantly shuttling water and firefighters back and forth from the nearest hydrant on Frix Road.
The homeowners were displaced. Shivers was not sure where they planned to stay, but that there were numerous friends and family who came to the home.
“We were able to get inside the home and retrieve numerous sentimental Christmas belongings and gifts for the family so they could have something,” he said.
The turbulent weather was being blamed for more than just the house fire.
A gas line was ruptured after being struck by lightning on Wallace Tatum Road, also in northwest Forsyth, authorities said.
Shivers said no fire was initiated from the strike, but the line did release gas underground.
No traffic delays resulted from the incident, he said, though it did occur along the side of the road.
In addition, Forsyth County Sheriff’s deputies and county roads and bridges crews worked Wednesday night and Thursday morning to clear a flooded Mullinax Road in south Forsyth.
Water was several feet deep, according to the sheriff’s office, when vehicles got stuck just north of Fowler Road.
Other roads throughout the county experienced partial flooding.
A flood watch was in effect until 7 p.m. Friday, with key areas around Big Creek in south Forsyth.