Severe weather blamed for house fire, hail damage

(Above) Clear Lake and Ventura firefighters were called to the scene of a house fire Monday night on 15th Avenue South.  Officials speculate lightning struck the tree (right of house) and started a fire in the attic.  Damage was estimated at $100,000.-Reporter photo by Chris Barragy.

Severe weather Monday night caused significant damage in the South Shore, Clear Lake State Park and Bayside areas.

In addition to reports of one and one-half inch hail, a lightning strike started a house fire which caused an estimated $100,000 damage.

The Clear Lake Fire Department was dispatched to 100 15th Ave. S. at approximately 9:52 p.m. Monday.  Heavy smoke was reported coming out of the home, owned by Jarvis and Jill Whitinger, of Nashua, Iowa.  No one was home at the time of the fire.

The fire was reported by neighbors who reported seeing a fireball.

Stacie Gustafson said her electricity flickered before she caught sight of a fireball through her glass front door.  Her husband, Mark, and Bryce Wichman grabbed a hose and pounded on the windows of the house before firefighters arrived to be sure it was empty.

Once on scene, firefighters made entry through the front door and encountered fire in the crawl space to the attic.  They were able to  knock the fire down quickly and then sprayed to be sure all hot spots were extinguished.

CLFD Public Information Officer Josh Pokorney reported the department responded with one ladder company, a rescue unit, engine company, command vehicle, ambulance, two medics and 19 firefighters. The CLFD was on the scene for about two hours.

Early indications were that lightning struck a tree and started a fire in the attic of the house.

The Clear Lake Police Department was first on scene and confirmed there was a working structure fire with heavy smoke coming out of the attic.

The Ventura Fire Department and Alliant Energy also assisted on the scene.

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