Lightning cause of Saskatchewan house fires rare

Chances remain slim that a lightning strike will start your house on fire, despite that happening twice in a week in Saskatoon.

Science not clear on effectiveness of lightning rods

Lightning started this fire on 20th Street West. (Kathy Fitzpatrick/CBC)

A Saskatoon electrical engineer says the chances remain slim that a lightning strike will start your home on fire – despite this happening twice in one week.

"Most places in Saskatchewan do have a low to moderate risk of being hit by lightning," said Kerry Lamb, the electrical team leader at Stantec Consulting Ltd.

The company does lightning protection for commercial buildings in western Canada.

The chances of a direct hit diminish in residential areas. Lightning typically strikes the tallest object. Many homes are in areas with tall trees, or radio and cell towers.

In terms of preventative measures, he said the jury is still out.

The weird science of lightning

"It's a weird science, and there's lots of white papers about the effectiveness of ground rods, or lightning rods," he said.

"And it's hard to, say, even measure if the system's effective because there's no counters on it, it's to tell if it actually has been hit."

Because of these variables, he said most homebuilders don't even offer lightning rods as an option to buyers. Copper and aluminum are expensive, and the rods can spoil the aesthetics of a roofline.

Further, if not installed properly, they may still lead to a fire.

Still, Lamb said that properly installed surge protectors and a lightning rod could make the difference.