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Lightning hits gas line, sparks Cottage Grove fire

Lightning struck the yard of this Jorgenson Avenue home, rupturing a gas line and igniting a fire that burned through an overnight downpour early Saturday. Photo provided by Cottage Grove Police Department.

Lighting is the presumed cause of a bizarre early morning fire in Cottage Grove over the weekend.

Cottage Grove police and fire crews responded to a fire burning in the front yard of a home in the 8700 block of Jorgenson Avenue around 3:15 a.m. early Saturday morning. Officials say it was sparked when lightning struck the ground and ruptured an underground gas line.

Deputy Public Safety Director Pete Koerner said gas leaking from the fractured pipe ignited and burned for over an hour despite a steady rainfall.

"There was a string of yard on fire and you could smell the gas," said officer Dan Schoen, one of the initial officers on the scene.

No one was injured in the fire that was extinguished after an Xcel Energy crew clamped off the ruptured line from a nearby gas main. No injuries were reported and the home was not damaged, police said.

Police said Xcel advised officers that an evacuation of nearby homes wasn't necessary, though officers went door-to-door in the neighborhood advising residents of the situation.

Officials said unique fire was a rarity -- and an odd sight, to boot.

"If you can imagine [the] dirt on fire, with the grass all burned up -- and during a rainstorm," Schoen said.

Second fire under investigation

Cottage Grove and state officials are also investigating a suspicious fire at a vacant home on East Point Douglas Road that burned early Sunday.

Fire crews responded to reports of a house fire at the corner of East Point Douglas and Hyde Avenue at approximately 1:15 a.m. Sunday. An officer observed smoke and fire coming from the home's vacant patio. The house itself was empty except for appliances, Koerner said.

No injuries were reported. The flames caused extensive damage, including a partial collapse of the home's roof.

Cottage Grove police and fire officials and the State Fire Marshal are investigating.