Lightning strike sparks fire destroying pastor's home

NOW: Lightning strike sparks fire destroying pastor’s home

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- A local pastor is now trying to salvage what’s left of his home after Monday night’s storm left extensive damage.

Pastor Tonnie Blackamore’s home is without a roof and much of its third floor after lightning struck his house and started a fire.

Blackamore was getting home from work just as the storm hit Benton Harbor and noticed lights flickering on and off and smelled burning wires.

While going through his 3-story, 100-year-old house to unplug things, he got upstairs and saw a glow on the wall.

“Anybody who’s had a fire knows it’s just an orange glow that immediately if you’ve ever seen it it makes your heart stop,” said Blackamore.

He then ran down the stairs trying to call 911 — forgetting how to even unlock his phone amidst the terror — but finally, got emergency dispatchers on the phone and within minutes the department of public safety was there.

“The unfortunate thing was it was in the middle of the storm and the wind was raging, and of course fire and wind don’t go well together,” said Blackamore. “Then it went up and the fire went across the top.”

Blackamore escaped his home so fast he didn’t even have the chance to grab any belongings. 

“I didn’t take any shoes out; I have a coat closet, I could’ve grabbed a jacket because I was soaked to the bone.”

Crews battled the blaze for three hours, which eventually took out the roof, but it all started right next to Blackamore’s room.

That alone — something he’s grateful for today.

“I even thank God for that because generally when I’m tired and had a long day I go upstairs and take a nap and if I would’ve been laying in that bed we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now.”

Thankfully, the home is expected to be salvageable, but not having a place to come back to for the time being is the hardest thing to grapple with. 

“The only issue I’m having today is that I don’t have a home. When you have a bad day you want to go home and right now I don’t have a home.”

But still, Blackamore is thankful for all of the friends and neighbors who stood with him during the fire and are now helping to clean up.

“I think I’m on about 20 different church prayer lists and that’s why I’m handling this so well because everybody has been there. I mean, stuff is replaceable life is not.”

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