Family loses home in fire after 911 cell tower is struck by lightning

Keith Guest and his family tried calling 911 for an hour and a half as they watched their $1.7 million home burn to the ground after it was struck by lightning

By EMS1 Staff

LADY’S ISLAND, S.C. — A family lost their home to a fire after several failed attempts to call 911, which was down because of a lightning strike.

WSAV reported that Keith Guest and his family tried calling 911 for an hour and a half after their $1.7 million home caught fire when it was struck by lightning, but no one knew at the time that cell phone dispatch in the area was down because a 911 tower had been struck by lightning as well.

"I kept thinking, 'Well they'll show up any minute. They'll show up, they'll show up. I know they'll be here in 5 minutes,'" Guest said. "Then 30 minutes goes by, 'Well, I know they'll be here in another 5 minutes,' and then an hour goes by and I'm thinking, 'Oh they'll be here any minute.' An hour and 15 minutes goes by ... we just could not get through to them.”

Guest said he also called neighbors for help.

“I was sort of trying to call other people that we knew, that live around the neighborhood," he said. "Our phones just wouldn't work to the 911, they would work to other people ... and we said, 'can you call 911?' And they would call us back and say ‘no, we can't get through.’"

Guest said a firefighter happened to stumble upon the house fire while floating on a nearby river.

"Luckily for us, a fireman who was out on his boat ... going down the river, and he saw the house was in flames, and he knew the direct number to the fire station," Guest said.

By the time firefighters arrived, there was not much they could do.

"It started collapsing and they had to back away for their own safety," Guest said, "There wasn't anything they could do."

Guest and his family had just put the house on the market for $1.7 million after 10 years of renovations, but the family said they aren’t worried about the money.

"Everybody got out safe," Guest said. "So everything else after that is ... nothing, right?"

Police said they are working to develop an actual phone number people can call in case another situation like this should arise.

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