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Lightning strike suspected as cause of devastating Port Orange fire

Homeowner is retiree from Volusia County Fire Department

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PORT ORANGE, Fla. – A Port Orange couple lost almost everything in their home after a possible lightning strike to their house started a fire.

"It went really fast,” Chris Leese said. “It was real hot.”

Leese, who lived at the home, was en route, returning from work when her husband called, saying he was out back for 20 minutes just a couple yards away before he realized the house was on fire.

A neighbor saw the high flames from the street and called 911.

"When he walked out, he didn't even know it was happening,” Leese said. “He heard the 
big thunder, and apparently, the lightning strike. I parked across the way and I could still see the smoke coming up. I knew the truck was totaled and the trailer.”

Emergency crews said the call on Stewart Avenue came in around 1 p.m. Thursday and added that they're not ruling out weather as a cause.

"We had a pretty significant thunder and lightning storm at the same time this came out," said Bryan Smith, the battalion chief of the Volusia County Fire Department.

"It's scary,” Leese said. “I never thought this would happen. It happens in Florida.”

The couple was able to save what they could from the ashes, including old picture frames, vases and art that were still salvageable.

But the couple lost their three cats in the fire.

"The house can be replaced,” Frank Leese said. “Memories can't. I'm thankful we're all OK. That’s the most important thing.”

Frank Leese, a retiree from the Volusia County Fire Department, said the couple is already talking about rebuilding.