A Friday evening lightning strike turned a quiet, residential block into the scene of the biggest emergency Florence firefighters have faced in over a decade, Fire Chief Scott Knoll said Monday.
"It's probably the most stressful situation you can imagine," he said.
Firefighters entered the burning townhome on Taramore Drive Friday night in search of residents who had been reported missing in the immediate aftermath of the lightning strike.
In reality, no one was home, and two of the firefighters who entered the building to search for them became trapped on the second floor. As they tried to leave, a portion of the roof collapsed.
"When it did, it obviously caused quite a bit of confusion," Knoll said. "One firefighter believed the other one was still behind them (and) continued on out the building, exactly how they were trained to do. When they got to the balcony and made their way down, we realized the other firefighter was not with him."
That firefighter, a captain, freed himself from debris but did not realize his companion was already outside, Knoll said. He searched the burning building before realizing he was the only one remaining inside.
"Everybody was involved the whole time," said Terry Reindollar, who witnessed the incident. "I'm really glad no one was hurt."
So was Knoll, he said. His team had received training to deal with similar situations just a month earlier, and he believes that training helped them escape safely.
"Obviously, we've seen what happens when that doesn't work out that way," he said.