18 Mar 2015

Freak lightning strike in Canberra

4:53 pm on 18 March 2015

A man has escaped serious injury after his car burst into flames following a freak lightning strike near a gas main in Canberra's north.

The fire began after lightning struck on Dryandra Street in Canberra's north during a short thunderstorm over the ACT about 8am.

Shortly after the lightning strike, a car on the street burst into flames.

Firefighter Danny Brighenti said crews at the scene were initially puzzled by the blaze, which kept reigniting.

"They believed there was a ruptured fuel tank which was causing the car to reignite," he said.

He said on closer inspection, once the fire died down, it was revealed a gas main had ruptured near the car.

Commander Brighenti said the cause of the gas leak was unclear.

He said scenarios in which cars were struck by lightning were rare, and it was possible a tree nearby was actually struck.

He said it was also unclear whether the car that caught fire was parked or moving along the road at the time of the lightning strike.

"On arrival the person had got out of the vehicle, but the car was heavily involved in fire with the surrounding trees and bushes," Commander Brighenti said.

"They're not injured ... but the car is totally destroyed."

A mountain bike and an iPhone inside the car were also destroyed.

'It was pretty crazy'

Crews worked to extinguish the blaze, which continued to reignite for more than two hours due to a gas leak about 70cm underground.

Contractors were called in to shut down the gas leak and an exclusion zone was set up around the blaze.

By 11.20am the leak was isolated and fire crews were able to leave the scene.

Nearby resident Sarah Groubes said she was getting ready for work this morning when she heard an "almighty lightning crash" over her house.

As she drove to work shortly afterwards, she came across the burning car.

"As we turned around the corner onto Dryandra Street we just saw this fireball on the side of the road," Ms Groubes said.

"It wasn't long before we realised there was a car immersed in flames.

"It was pretty crazy ... I've been in that street on and off for about 40 years and I'd never seen any lighting strike quite so close. We do have a lot of tall trees in the area."

Gas contractors remained at the scene to repair the leak.

There were no reports of injuries.