Lightning ignites barn fire in upper Rattlesnake Valley; lack of cell service delays response

Lightning provided the ignition for a barn fire off Duncan Drive Thursday afternoon. (Photot: JoAnne Brekjern)

A thunderstorm cell that rumbled through Missoula Thursday afternoon ignited a barn fire off Duncan Drive in the upper Rattlesnake Valley.

The property owner was at home and saw lightning strike the outbuilding just before 3 p.m., said Gordy Hughes, assistant chief of the Missoula Fire Department.

But she was unable to call out on her cellphone, so ran for help from a neighbor several hundred yards away.

The combination of the delayed 911 call and a downed power line led to a fire that had engulfed the barn by the time firefighters arrived, Hughes reported.

Not until NorthWestern Energy de-energnized the power line could firefighters fully extinguish the fire, he said.

Property damage was estimated at $15,000.

Hughes said 18 firefighters responded to the scene, along with three engines, a ladder truck and a water tender.

There were no injuries.

Hughes reminded Missoula residents of several measures they should take during a lightning storm: “When thunder roars, go indoors (unless your house is on fire). Avoid water, electronic equipment, corded telephones, windows, doors, and porches. Stay away from trees and tall structures if outdoors.”