77ºF

Lightning strike starts fire, burns house to ground

Family says it took 1 hour for house to burn down

GROVELAND, Fla. – A Groveland family lost everything in a house fire after lightning struck its home Monday night. Family members said it only took an hour for the whole house to burn down.

"Basically, 40 years worth of gathering possessions and it was just gone," Darren Sowell said.

Firefighters rushed to put out the fire as flames quickly engulfed the home.

Darren Sowell said they were all inside the home when they felt a powerful surge of energy.

"We heard a huge boom, like a bomb went off, and lightning had struck across the field from our house," Darren said. "I paused and was like, 'What if that hit our house?' And 10 seconds later, it hit our house."

"I had my foot on the trash can, lifting the lid, and it shocked from the trash can to my foot as the boom went off," Janet Sowell said.

They said after that it was a rush against time to get everyone out, including their daughter and the dog.

Posted by Brian Hammond on Monday, August 7, 2017

"My husband said, 'I need the keys,' so I grabbed my purse and threw it at him," Janet said.

"I went outside to look and the actual roof was on fire, and the flames were going. We didn't really grab anything," Darren said.

Nearly 42 hours later, black ashes sat in the place they once called home. The family said it's slowly picking up the pieces and staying with neighbors.

"These are my neighbor's," Darren said of his clothes. "We're just doing the best we can."

"The family is safe, the kids are safe, the dog is safe," Janet said. "I mean, that's it. Everything else is stuff. You can replace stuff (if) you got your family."

The Sowells said they're working with their insurance company to figure out the next steps, adding that they're not sure if they'll rebuild or move. 

Anyone who would like to help the Sowell family out can do so by sending donations to:

The Sowell Family/Darren Sowell 
P.O. Box 101 Groveland, FL 34736