A swift response by an observant neighbor and the Scarsdale Fire Department was instrumental in saving a Bradley Road home that was struck by lightning during a violent storm on Friday, September 7th.
Frank Colella and his daughter were both in the house shortly before 6 pm when lightning struck, but initially did not realize what had happened. In fact, the daughter was on the phone with her mother, Pat, who was in lower Manhattan at the time and the call got cut off. Not realizing what had happened, the daughter called her mother back on her cell phone and continued to chat. A few minutes later, the 17-year-old heard a crinkling sound in the attic and feared there were squirrels in the house. She yelled down to her dad to come upstairs -- and when he pulled down the Bessler stairs to the attic to investigate he found the insulation melting, saw flames and closed the stairs back up.
They both ran downstairs to call the fire department but found that their phone line had been knocked out. Fortunately, by that time, neighbor and volunteer firefighter Jeff Hill had called 911 and ran into the house to tell the Colella’s to get out. He had heard thunder, seen a flash of light and smoke coming from the Colella’s roof. Three to five minutes later, the fire department was there and went to work to save the house.
Eight vehicles from Scarsdale, along with crews from Hartsdale and the County came to the house which is near the corner of Boulevard in Edgewood. The firefighters acted quickly and aggressively and were able to confine the fire to one end of the attic and prevent it from spreading to the rest of the house.
Firefighters opened up the roof to vent the attic and also had to open up the ceilings to the second floor to fully extinguish the flames. The attic and the roof suffered structural damage and there was smoke and water damage on the first and second floors. The house is now uninhabitable.
Scarsdale’s Fire Captain McIlvain was the tour commander and Captain Mann served as the safety captain. In addition to the professional staff, 23 volunteers along with several off duty career staff and a mutual aid FAST team from Hartsdale assisted with the effort. No one was injured. According to Captain Mann, if the firemen had not acted so quickly, the fire would have destroyed the house. Scarsdale Fire Chief Thomas M. Cain said, “The early notification, rapid response and diligent work by our firefighters surely kept this from being a total loss.”
The family has moved to a hotel as the attic is thoroughly burnt and there is extensive damage on the second floor. The first floor of the home has smoke and water damage and Colella is not sure what can be saved. Firefighters did allow the family to go back in and gather some of their belongings and they were able to retrieve family photos from the basement. They grabbed the clothes they could find and a helpful neighbor spent all day Sunday doing laundry to try to save at least some of their belongings.
Pat says she is “stunned, shocked and overwhelmed” by what happened but extremely grateful to the fire department for ensuring the safety of her husband and daughter and saving the house.
She is also very grateful to the members of the Scarsdale Congregational Church who rallied around her family as well as many of their Edgewood neighbors. Members of the church and friends came to the house immediately to help and have done everything from finding them lodging to giving them gift cards for meals and providing emotional support.