Attic Fires from Lightning Strikes


Every spring there are several local news stories about attic fires caused by lightning strikes.

Attics are typically unoccupied, so fires can go unnoticed unless proper heats sensors are installed and functioning properly. Without professional, outside monitoring from an alarm company, detection may not occur until smoke and flames escape from the roof providing visible signs to persons observing the structure from the outside. In some cases, enough smoke accumulates to set off alarms on the lower level.

Attic fires are uniquely dangerous to firefighters and building occupants because of they are difficult to detect. The time delay in detection allows fires to grow larger and become harder to contain.

Attics also provide fires with an array of fuel sources including wooden support beams and storage items. Fire spreads along structural framing relatively quickly is often concealed within layers of insulation.

According to the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS), there are two types of fires in residential and commercial structures. Confined and unconfined. Unconfined fires tend to be smaller incidents that stay in smaller areas such as fireplaces or noncombustible containers such as pots and pans. Fires in attics are considered unconfined, often resulting in a significant loss.

Attic fires can occur anytime during the year. However, there are peak seasonal times, winter and summer. A spike in cold weather attic fires takes place in December and January. The cause of these events is primarily electrical malfunctions. The second peak occurs during the summer months of June and July according to a report by the U.S. Fire Administration. The majority of these occurrences are natural fires resulting from a lightning discharge.

“When severe storms roll through the Midwest area, our local central monitoring station observes and takes quick action to events like these—saving lives and preventing thousands of dollars of catastrophic damage,” says Rick Cahill, Central Station Manager at Alarm Detection Systems, Inc. (ADS).

It is best to consult an alarm installation expert to make sure you have adequate heat detection in your attic spaces for two reasons.

  • The early detection of a fire event within the attic space.
  • Reducing false alarms by ensuring the proper installation of heat detectors.

Several factors are used to determine the correct devices, spacing, quantity, and temperature ratings of the devices that are needed. Alarm Detection Systems has experience in both home and business alarm applications. The safety of your occupants and protection of your property is our number one priority.

We offer free security consultations backed with nearly fifty years of expertise. If you have a question on an existing alarm system, new construction, testing or service, we will be happy to take the time to walk you through the whole process. The bottom line is that your alarm system needs to be properly configured and in working order before a lightning strike.

Call us at 630.944.6322 for great information on how we can secure your property all year long.