MOUNT VERNON — Harold Webber was surrounded by friends and neighbors Tuesday as firefighters tried to douse flames that had destroyed his Wings Mills Road home.

“This whole neighborhood is very close,” said Ella Crocker, the Webbers’ neighbor for more than 40 years.

Nobody was injured in the fire, which was sparked by lightning during a storm that swept through the area around noon.

Webber said the home was insured, though he is unsure if insurance would fully replace the pretty Cape Cod-style home at 330 Wings Mills Road.

Mount Vernon Deputy Fire Chief Tony Dunn said the home is a complete loss.

The American Red Cross and Salvation Army were expected to help the family, Dunn said.

Dozens of firefighters from Lakes Region Mutual Aid — which includes Mount Vernon, Fayette, Manchester, Readfield, Vienna and Wayne, as well as firefighters from Belgrade — spent about 90 minutes trying to get the fire under control, Readfield Fire Chief Lee Mank said.

Flames had engulfed the house and attached garage by the time firefighters arrived, Mank said.

The home’s metal roof, which made it difficult to vent the smoke and heat, complicated efforts to extinguish the blaze, Dunn said.

He said there also was a shortage of manpower. “It’s a time of day that volunteers all have jobs,” Dunn said.

Lightning was suspected of causing at least four other fires across the state Monday night and Tuesday. No injuries were reported in any of the fires.

In the Penobscot County town of Garland, firefighters were called to a blaze around 9:30 p.m. Monday at a barn that had been turned into a sawmill. Officials said lightning was to blame for a house fire in the Waldo County town of Searsmont shortly after midnight Tuesday. Another fire was sparked by lightning around 2 a.m. Tuesday at a home in the Hancock County town of Orland. And firefighters suspect lightning also caused a Tuesday afternoon fire that destroyed a home in Clinton.

The powerful storm that passed through Mount Vernon was marked by hail and multiple incidents of air to ground lightning, Mank said. One of those bolts hit a tree behind the Webbers’ house.

“It hit the tree behind and it followed (a root) into the house,” Mank said.

Dunn said the energy passed through the root with enough force to disturb the dirt above.

“You can see it in the ground,” he said.

Webber said he and his wife, Marlene, were at home when the storm hit.

Their adult daughter, Emily, who lives with the couple, was not there.

“I thought it started in the main part of the house, but there wasn’t any fire,” Harold Webber said. “When I looked at the garage, it was on fire.”

Webber said he tried to call it in, but the lightning strike wiped out the home’s phone line. He and Marlene ran out of the house, grabbing their cat on the way.

The couple climbed into their car, which was parked near the garage, and drove it to a friend’s house across the street, Crocker said.

Marlene Webber stayed in the car as her husband ran to Crocker’s house to ask her to call for help.

“I heard (the lightning) when it hit,” Crocker said. “I thought it was my own house.”

A Winthrop Ambulance crew checked Marlene Webber, who complained of chest pains shortly after the fire started.

“I talked to her before the ambulance arrived,” Crocker said. “She said, ‘Don’t worry about the house, just worry about my husband and my daughter.’ “

Harold Webber said his wife was expected to be OK.

But everything else about his family’s future was suddenly much more uncertain. “We haven’t got anyplace to stay,” he said.

Webber reflected on his faith and said he trusted that God was at work, even in the fire.

“He loves us more than we think he does,” Webber said. “Why he allows things like this, I don’t know.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

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