Storm, lightning strikes keep firefighters busy on Hilton Head

The roof of a home in Hilton Head Plantation is partially covered by a tarp after being struck by lightning Wednesday evening.
The roof of a home in Hilton Head Plantation is partially covered by a tarp after being struck by lightning Wednesday evening.

Strong thunderstorms that rolled into Hilton Head Island Wednesday afternoon kept the town's Fire & Rescue Division busy with 13 weather-related calls in 70 minutes, an officials said.

"They were running to one right after another," spokeswoman Joheida Fister said in an e-mail.

The calls included six confirmed lightning strikes, one of which hit a Town Hall building. The others hit homes and a tree, Fister said.

None of the strikes resulted in fires, though one in Hilton Head Plantation damaged a roof.

In Bluffton, the storms were less severe.

An engine from the Bluffton Township Fire District, however, was sent to assist the busy Hilton Head department, officials said.

In Beaufort, the fire department called in off-duty firefighters and put a reserve fire engine into service as firefighters scurried to reports of lightning strikes.

Firefighters were called to the 1300 block of Charles Street just after 3 p.m. after a resident called 911 to report heavy smoke coming from a neighbor's home, said Lt. Dan Byrne, Beaufort Fire Department spokesman.

Byrne said fire investigators believe lightning struck a shed that housed the home's water heater. The shed was connected to the home.

Firefighters cautiously extinguished the blaze after a military crate was found in the shed with markings indicating it contained heavy explosives. The contents of the crate turned out to be a Christmas tree and other holiday decorations.

No injuries were reported.

About 20 minutes after the call on Charles Street, Beaufort County emergency dispatchers sent firefighters to four other reports of possible structure fires caused by lightning strikes, including one on 9th Street in Port Royal, where a a fire started inside the wall of a home.

Byrne said the house sustained moderate damage because firefighters had to break a window and rip out a windowsill to extinguish the fire. A tarp was placed over the window by firefighters before leaving the scene, he said.

As they departed, firefighters again were dispatched to a weather-related call.

Byrne said a large tree fell across Paris Avenue in Port Royal, taking a power line with it and tearing the lines from the side of a nearby home. There were no signs of a fire inside the home, he said.

Reporter Renee Dudley contributed to this report.