Strike 1, strike 2: Lightning causes back-to-back garage fires

Along with emergency responders of all stripes, the Brainerd Fire Department found itself busy in the hours following a severe storm Sunday, July 14.

An attached garage burns Sunday, July 14, following a lightning strike at a home on the 3800 block of Shady Lane Circle in Unorganized Territory. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch file photo

Lightning struck twice Sunday night, setting fire to two attached garages at homes in Unorganized Territory north of Brainerd/Baxter.

In the immediate aftermath of a severe thunderstorm Sunday, July 14, Brainerd fire crews navigated a flooded Highway 371 to respond to a garage engulfed in flames on the 3800 block of Shady Lane Circle, west of Highway 371 off Green Gables Road. When calling 911 at 7:41 p.m., the homeowner David Walsh reported his home was struck by lightning.

“He was in the basement when the fire broke out,” Fire Chief Tim Holmes said by phone Monday. “He came upstairs when he heard the loud crack of thunder and he figured maybe lightning struck a tree outside. But then he saw an orange glow on his back shed.”

That orange glow was the flames rising from the attached garage. When firefighters arrived, they found the garage and its contents -- including a vehicle converted into a camper -- burning quickly and flames moving into the attic of the home. They were able to extinguish the fire swiftly, Holmes said, but the work wasn’t done as up to 23 firefighters removed insulation and assisted Walsh in moving furniture and valuables.

No injuries were reported. Also on scene were the Nisswa Police Department, Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office and North Memorial Ambulance.


Less than an hour after that call, 911 dispatchers paged Brainerd firefighters for another lightning-induced fire on the 15000 block of Garrett Lane. A crew from the Shady Lane Circle fire left to respond to reported smoke coming from an attached garage at a home on Red Sand Lake, and another crew from the station joined them.

Upon arrival, firefighters found smoke coming from the eaves of the garage and charring on the exterior of a wall. Holmes said what firefighters saw was consistent with a lightning strike, and they extinguished the resulting small fire and removed burned siding and wiring.

Law enforcement assisted at the scene on Garrett Lane. The affected home is owned by Michael Forland.

Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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