FOLKSTON, Ga. – A lightning strike caused the Badcock Home Furniture in Folkston to go up in flames Sunday night.
It happened between 7 and 8 p.m. at the store on 1st and Elm streets. Both Charlton County and Brantley County firefighters battled the fire for three hours, but the family-owned building is believed to be a total loss.
It took 18 trucks and dozens of firefighters to fully extinguish the fire, which was monitored overnight for hot spots. No injuries were reported but the building may not be structurally sound.
Officials said a house nearby was also struck by lighting but did not catch fire.
Betty McCall told News4Jax she and her husband have owned that business for more than 30 years and lived in an apartment inside the building until about four years ago. Some of their personal belongings, as well as all the inventory of the furniture store, was destroyed.
McCall said she was at church when she learned of the fire and raced to the scene. She said she is thankful no one was in the building at the time but is devastated by the loss.
"This destitution is like having a death in the family," McCall said. "It really is because you have so much that you lose that cannot be brought back. It’s like a final chapter in our life, for this building.”
McCall said she and her family are looking for a temporary place for their business until they’re able to find a permanent new building, but even with insurance, starting over will take time. They’re leaning on her faith to make it through.
Rikin Patel’s gas station and convenience store next door to Badcock was filled with customers when they heard the lightning. He immediately feared for his fuel tanks a few feet away.
“When we went out to look at (the fire), it was so bad that we just locked the door and took off," Patel said. "By the time we pulled off, that flame from the back of the building had went to the front in less than a minute."
According to the National Weather Service, July is the deadliest month for lightning strikes. Eight people in Clearwater Beach were also injured by a lightning strike over the weekend.
One person was in critical condition. The Clearwater Fire Department said that man suffered cardiac arrest and seven others nearby were injured, at least one with burns.