Lightning strike sets Tronia Systems building ablaze

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Nobody seriously injured in the fire

A bolt of lighting ignited a fire at the Tronia Systems building in Campbell Park over the weekend; the building was empty at the time.

On Saturday at 4:40 p.m. the St. Albert Fire Department received a call from someone who saw smoke rising from the roof of the Tronia building.

Matt Kulak was just leaving Servus Place with his family when he saw black smoke wafting up from the Campbell Park area. He drove over to the building to see flames pouring out the roof.

“As we were leaving the smoke was so black I just knew something was wrong,” Kulak said.

Kulak was the third witness on scene and he immediately called the fire department. He was impressed when they arrived about four minutes later.

As soon as the department got to work, Kulak said the flames were gone within minutes but the smoke continued to draw a crowd from the busy Servus Place building. Once the smoke got thick and black the father left with his family because he didn’t want to be inhaling any of the smoke.

St. Albert Fire Chief Keven Lefebvre said that 28 members responded to the fire at the building that was fortunately empty at the time. They had the fire under control by 5:15 p.m, although Lefebvre said that members stayed on scene until 10 p.m. to ensure the fire was completely extinguished. The only injury was sustained by a fire firefighter who suffered a small cut to his hand.

In the end the building was saved and incurred around $150,000 in damage, which Lefebvre said is a small amount of damage when it comes to large structure fires.

Kulak said that he was extremely impressed with the fire department’s response to the fire, especially performing in a high-pressure situation in front of dozens of spectators.

It was originally suspected that a fire in Grandin Village in late June was sparked by a bolt of lighting, but after an investigation it was determined that a power surge from the electrical storm caused an outlet to overheat and start the fire.

Lighting strikes

Dan Kulak, a meteorologist for Environment and Climate Change Canada, said lightning strikes are common and very dangerous, but the organization does not exclusively track them when they hit buildings.

Looking at the data back to 2002, the Edmonton area saw the most lighting strikes in 2016 with 13,000 instances. The low was in 2002 with around 2,000 strikes. Typically July is the most active month for thunderstorms and has the highest reported amount of lighting strikes.

Kulak said that lightning is the biggest killer when it comes to weather events, aside from extreme heat. He said lightning kills more than rain, wind, tornadoes and hail combined, and that people should be very cautious when they see approaching storms.

“Of those deaths the majority are from storms that don’t even have any warning. They are just regular storms. They don’t have big wind, they don’t have big hail,” Kulak said.

Kulak added people become complacent with lightning and summer storms because they see them happen so often they don’t take the necessary precautions to protect themselves. Lighting strikes typically come from storms that have no severe weather warning, which makes them even more dangerous.

On Saturday, when lightning struck the Tronia Systems building there was no storm warning.

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Jennifer Henderson

Jennifer Henderson joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2016. She writes about municipal, provincial and federal politics; court and crime; general news and features.