HOEDSPRUIT - A thatch house in the wildlife estate of Raptor’s View was gutted by fire on December 15, 2004. The house was struck by lightning shortly before 02h00, and despite the rain that began to fall immediately after the lightning strike, the entire house was eventually destroyed before the fire was declared extinguished just before 08h00.
The roof of the garage and nearby guest cottage also fell prey to the flames, although 60 percent of it was saved. Built on one of the 305 stands on Raptor’s View, the house had no lightning conductors at the developer’s request, for aesthetic reasons. The regulations also call for all houses in the development to be thatched.
It is believed that the lightning may have struck part of a sprinkler system on the roof, which was intended to wet the thatch down in case of a veld fire. The sprinkler system is connected by copper pipes, which run along the ridge of the roof, where the fire originally concentrated.
The R844,000 “dream house” was constructed for Joan Arnestad, who moved to Hoedspruit from Johannesburg. The house was due to be completed at the beginning of August, but Arnestad was still involved in negotiations with the builder at the time of the fire. The building costs of the house had been paid in full, but there were several things that Arnestad required the builder to fix or compensate her for before she would accept the official handover of the property.
Arnestad was waiting on the official handover before taking up one of several insurance quotes she had sourced for the house. Currently staying with friends, Arnestad said that she would stay in the cottage next to the ruins, although it has been declared electrically unsafe, if she could be sure that she could see her dream house rebuilt with insurance money, but could not bear it if there was no guarantee that the funds would be forthcoming.
Arnestad says that fire danger was never a concern to her as she had been assured that the developer had adequate fire-fighting contingency measures in place. She says that as a result of her experience any developer of a similar development would be hard pushed to sell her a stand without a written guarantee that all the contingency measures were in place.
In an second thunderstorm in December, a man died in Hoedspruit when lightning struck a tree as he was walking to his house.
Did you know
- Lightning conductors provide a conical zone of protection, extending from the top of the mast to the ground. Anything in the cone is protected from a lightning strike. A single mast provides a zone of protection with a 45 degree angle from the top of the mast to the edge of the cone on all sides of the mast
- Two masts make a complex shape where there is a 60 degree angle between the two masts and a 45 degree angle on the other side
- On sloping ground and hills, which are considered to be high-risk areas, the cone is reduced to a 30 degree angle from the top of the mast
According to the CSIR manual “A guide to good thatching practice” the need to protect your house from lightning is based on
- The height of the highest point of the building relative to the surroundings
- The average number of times per year lightning is expected to strike the ground in the area where the building is located
- The area of the building that can be struck by lightning
- What hazard category the building falls into
- The highveld of South Africa and Lesotho has one of the highest lightning strike rates per square kilometre per year in the world, with about seven strikes per km2 annually
- Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), famous for flying a kite into a thunderstorm to learn more about electricity and lightning, was the first person to suggest that buildings may be protected from lightning by pointed iron rods