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Lightning likely struck half-million-dollar homes, smoldered for hours before flames erupted overnight

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BATON ROUGE – St. George firefighters battled massive fires that engulfed two half-million-dollar or more homes in separate overnight fires, believed to have been sparked by lightning strikes hours earlier. 

The first was on Southern Hills Avenue in the Santa Maria neighborhood around midnight.  Firefighters arrived to see flames exploding from the roof of the two-story home.  Flames could be seen from around the block.

The house was at the corner of Point O' Woods Court.

Firefighters started to attack the fire that had consumed the top portion of the home within minutes.

It took firefighters about 30 minutes to get the fire under control.  The entire ordeal took about three hours, the St. George Fire Department said.

No one was hurt.

The fire is under investigation and a cause was not known as of Thursday mid-morning, but firefighters said they suspect the weather could have been a factor in the blaze.  Fire investigators believe that in both cases, lightning strikes around 6 p.m. Wednesday were likely the culprit.  

In some cases, a lightning strike can start a small fire that goes unnoticed for hours.  In the cases Wednesday, it is likely that is what happened, firefighters said.  

Dustin Yates, Chief of Administrative Office of the St. George Fire Department, says that houses in these neighborhoods can almost be magnets for lighting because of high rooftops. 

"There's not a whole lot of tree covering that area, and it never seems to fail that in some type of major storm or lightning event that we always generally get some houses struck by lightning," Yates said.

The WBRZ Storm Station weather team tracked lightning strikes in both Santa Maria and the Country Club of Louisiana.  

The fire in Santa Maria was a few hours before the blaze at a home behind the gates of the Country Club of Louisiana.  There, firefighters found fire climbing through the two-story home valued around $700,000.  A firefighter suffered a minor injury at the second fire.

The fires were about one-and-a-quarter miles away and about five hours apart. 

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