Lightning strike injures firefighter in Standish;
A bolt hits the town's fire station, knocking out the firefighter and all of the station's electronics.


Lightning struck the central fire station in Standish Tuesday afternoon, injuring one firefighter and knocking out electrical systems.

About eight firefighters and paramedics were about to jump in their trucks and head to St. Joseph's College for a fire alarm around 4:20 p.m. when the station was hit, Chief Martin Jordan said. A blinding light was followed by a bang, he said, and a crackling sound filled the room.

"You could feel and hear the lightning making this sound like you were walking on potato chips," Jordan said.

At that instant, firefighter James Paul was leaning one hand against an ambulance, getting ready to put on his rubber boots. The lightning bolt struck the station's cellular tower, and traveled down into the building, through the concrete floor and the vehicles. The shock threw Paul to the floor.

"I wouldn't have believed it had I not seen it," Jordan said. "I've never experienced this in 30 plus years."

The strike knocked out every electronic device at the dispatch center, every radio, console and circuit board, even the intercom system.

"We were dead in the water, we had no communication," Jordan said.

Within seconds, other firefighters were tending to the stunned Paul, whose heart was racing abnormally. He was taken by ambulance to Maine Medical Center. Jordan then got on his phone and called for help from Windham, Gorham and Cumberland County.

Windham responded to the call at St. Joseph's, and Gorham sent an engine to central station in Standish. Fortunately for the Standish crew, the thunderstorm did not cause any other major incidents Tuesday afternoon.

Two radio vendors, Horizon and Maine Radio, sent trucks to Standish and replaced the radio systems within a few hours of the strike. Workers also replaced a circuit board on the generator that runs the public safety building during power outages.

"Everybody came to the plate and did what they had to do. I'm impressed and thankful that everything worked out OK," Jordan said. "We haven't even assessed the computers yet."

Paul was released from Maine Med and was recovering at home Tuesday night. He was a little numb and tingly, but otherwise felt all right, Jordan said. Paul has no recollection of the lightning strike, the chief said.

The fast-moving storm also caused minor damage in surrounding communities, toppling trees and power lines.

In Gray, a lightning bolt hit a house at 11 Center Road, and also split apart a large tree in the back yard. Firefighters from Gray, New Gloucester and Cumberland contained the damage to a small section at the back of the house. No one was at home when the bolts struck around 4:10 p.m., said firefighter Craig Messinger.
Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at:

July 20, 2005