Your Home Could Be Lightning Rod For Fire

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When lightning strikes, most of us think our homes will shield us from the danger, but some houses are wired for disaster, 10 Investigates' Paul Aker reported on Monday.

"We were awakened by the smell of smoke," said Cliff Nutter, a homeowner. 

Nutter's Groveport home caught on fire last June.  Lightning struck the roof but that caused a pipe in his basement to ignite.

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According to the Madison Township Fire Marshal, a piece of tubing, called the Currogated Stainless Steel Tubing, was the culprit.  It is a relatively new, inexpensive piping used for natural gas.

The problem is that when lightning strikes a house, the electrical current can move through objects like a metal duct to CSST.  As the electrical arc hits the pipe, it springs small leaks.  That is when a pressurized tube starts acting like a blowtorch.

10 Investigates discovered that is a frequent problem.

"When we get a basement fire and it's during storms, we automatically suspect (the CSST)," said Genoa Township fire Chief Gary Honeycutt.

His department produced a training video about how to fight the fires.  According to Honeycutt, CSST lines have jumped out as a leading cause of fire during thunderstorm season. 

10 Investigates polled fire departments across central Ohio and found nearly two dozen cases.  We discovered 22 CSST-related fires since 2003.  Many of them occurred in southern Delaware County.

"When I had my home built, (the builders) were planning on putting CSST in it and I refused to allow them to do it," Honeycutt said.

Builders starting installing CSST in 1988, Aker reported.  Back then, building codes did not require them to ground or bond the pipe.

Starting in 2006, Ohio's code changed, requiring the grounding for homes with CSST.  For many, that was too late.  For folks like the Nutters, their home was built just before the code changed.

"My major concern is people like us that had (CSST) prior should be made aware that they need to have it checked to make sure it is properly grounded and bonded, so this doesn't happen again," Cliff Nutter said.

Anyone whose home was built after 1988 should check to see if the tubing is found near duct work and whether it is grounded and bonded, Aker reported.  If you can't tell or have doubts, call an electrician.

The cost to add grounding runs from $300 to $800.

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