RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Investigators are looking into whether lightning may have sparked a house fire early Monday in New Jersey.

The flames broke out around 4:30 a.m. at a three-story home on Ridge Road in Rutherford.

About 50 firefighters responded, helping a family of six to safety.

A few crew members were evaluated for smoke inhalation, but have been cleared to return to duty.

Neighbors told CBS2’s Tara Jakeway they woke up to a loud explosion.

“I live around the block, and it was the loudest I ever heard in my 61 years, I’ll tell you that,” one man said. “Very scary.”

“It was really loud. The whole entire town heard it. Everyone woke up and they smelled fire, and the fire alarms went off, and then it was an inferno on the roof,” Simone Virani added.

“It sounded like a bomb or a plane and everyone’s been up since then,” said neighbor Al Raffamello.

Authorities said they’re eyeing the thunderstorms that passed through overnight as a possible cause.

“There was a reported lightning strike in the area prior to the fire. Neighbors are saying there was some significant weather just a few minutes before the fire,” said Fire Marshal Paul Dansbach.

Investigators are working to eliminate other causes.

“There’s some lightning tracking software out there that is available to some agencies, so that’s one of the resources that we’re going to attempt to use,” Dansback said.

Neighbors, however, said their minds are made up. Elaine and Joseph O’Neill live in the attic of a home across the street.

“It sounded like a lightning strike… like splitting wood,” Joseph said.

“If the lightning had struck our house, which is just three houses away, then my son would have been killed, I would have been killed,” Elaine added.

Officials said other houses in town have been struck by lightning before.


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