Two motorhomes parked at the Bowling Motors & RV Sales in Ottumwa, Iowa, were struck by lightning early Thursday (Oct.1) and destroyed.
According to authorities, a passerby reported seeing a bolt of lightning strike the ground where two RVs were parked side by side on the dealership lot. Smoke was seen coming from one of the motorhomes, and apparently the fire spread from one to the other, according to KTVO-TV, Kirksville, Mo.
According to the Ottumwa Courier, Doug Davis had been trying to make a deal with a customer for the 1999 RV when someone came in and said the front end was smoking.
Davis ran out the door with a fire extinguisher.
The fire was already too far advanced for Davis to bring down. So he and the other employees started moving RVs out of the lot, trying to confine the fire to just the two vehicles that were already burning.
“We all rushed out and started moving the RVs out of there,” he said. One wouldn’t start, so they used a tractor to haul it away.
Black, rolling smoke rose hundreds of feet into the air within minutes. It was visible for miles. A steady rain wasn’t enough to put out the fires and the smell of burning rubber filled the air.
The fire stayed with the two vehicles, but Davis still worried about the propane tanks. He remained concerned until the Wapello County Rural Fire Department arrived and started knocking back the flames.
The firefighters worked methodically. They had to use hooks to pull apart the vehicles’ walls. Scorched areas on the exterior showed where fire had already burned into them, but hadn’t yet burned through. One vehicle wound up with a massive hole in the side. The second was left as an unrecognizable hunk of charred metal.
You could hear the relief in Davis’ voice as the firefighters, joined now by trucks from the Ottumwa Fire Department, put out the flames. He started cracking jokes.
Maybe, he said, he can call back the prospective buyers for that RV and offer them a price lower than they ever would have believed.