After lightning starts house fire, family looks for temporary home


The Davises home was badly damaged by fire.

Courtesy of Kim Cinque
Published: Monday, July 14, 2014 at 5:13 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, July 14, 2014 at 5:13 p.m.

Kim Davis was painting the wall behind her refrigerator during a thunderstorm Friday evening when she heard the bang.

Through the corner of her eyes, she could see a white flash of light coming from the other side of the kitchen and electrical sparks. Her teenage son Andrew had heard the bang as well and came running into the kitchen of their home at 8535 NW 22nd Ave., she said.

Davis called her brother, and he told her to check the circuit box. As she went to check the box in her garage, she heard knocking and shouting at her door, she said.

“Your house is on fire!” her neighbor, Peter Rushkoski, yelled as he banged on the door.

The Davises’ home was hit by a lightning strike during a storm around 5:30 p.m. Friday that set the three-bedroom, two-bathroom house on fire, said Alachua County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Becky Butscher. ASO and Alachua County Fire Rescue both responded to the scene. Although ACFR was able to extinguish the fire, much of the inside of the house was destroyed, she said.

Rushkoski was making a sandwich during the storm on Friday when he heard a big “pow” that hurt his ears and set off his alarms. When he went outside to check his home, he said he saw a cloud of gray smoke coming from the Davises’ home.

At first Rushkoski thought his neighbors were having a cookout, but when the smoke turned black and flames shot up from the roof, he realized the house was on fire. He grabbed his keys, ran to the Davises’ home and began yelling at the top of his lungs, he said.

By the time Davis answered the door, smoke was coming out of her bedroom. Andrew got their two dogs out of the house as Davis asked neighbors to call 911.

“I think we were a bit lucky,” she said. “If the house had been locked and no one had been home, there would have been a lot more damage.”

Davis’ husband, Matt Davis, who is an officer with the University of Florida Police Department, and her older son, Matthew, were in North Carolina at the time of the fire and came back to a ruined home. The walls were saturated with water, the attic and everything in it was burned to a black crisp and their clothes smelled of smoke, Matt Davis said.

“The kitchen’s a complete loss and the roof was pretty close to collapsing, but at least no one got hurt,” he said.

On Monday, Matt and Kim Davis were salvaging what they could from their home and cleaning the remaining soot and insulation from the kitchen. The Davises are now staying in a small hotel room, Matt Davis said, but will have to find temporary housing as their house is fixed, which could take two to three months.

Kim Davis said they have a couple of leads but are still looking for a furnished rental home with a two- to three-month lease.

“Everyone so far has been great,” she said. “It’s nice to know our neighbors care. As awful as it is, it could have been worse.”

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