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Lightning sparks fire at Tarpon Springs mansion | News

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Lightning sparks fire at Tarpon Springs mansion
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Tarpon Springs, Florida -- Firefighters were still on the scene of a huge house fire sparked by a lightning strike Monday afternoon in the 1200 block of North Florida Avenue in Tarpon Springs.

Just when they thought they had it under control, fire rescue workers say they were searching for hot spots and found more fire hiding in the crawl spaces.

The 5,700 square-foot waterfront mansion belongs to Mike and Diane Pikos. Neighbors say it was a massive bolt of lightning that sparked the blaze at about 1:30, during the height of a storm.

John Cotton, who lives two doors down, thought at first the bolt had hit his house.

"That was loud, that was really loud," said Cotton. "And I mean it wasn't like a white flash... it was... not like a normal lightning bolt. It was yellow, so I knew it was close."

Officials say they were having a hard time with the fire. Twelve units on scene from Tarpon Springs, East Lake and Clearwater, but firefighters were exhausted by the stubborn blaze as it kept flaring up.

Chief Don Sayre says they just kept finding more flames.

"We've discovered an active seat in there, so we're again having difficulty getting to the seat of the fire," he said.

Another neighbor says Pikos, a well-known oral surgeon in the area with offices in Palm Harbor, had recently invested in a brand new lightning protection system.

The family reportedly escaped without injury, but their pets were still being accounted for. The Pikos family has a pair of dogs, a bird, and so far one of two cats have been located.

Family friends John and Kay Koulianos grabbed an oxygen tank from fire rescue workers and saved one cat named Allie.

"My wife held the cat with the oxygen in it. And she's gonna make it. They're putting it in an oxygen tank right now at an animal hospital," said the couple.

The house, according to records, was built in 1995.

The fire was making the floors "spongy" said Chief Sayre, so that was hampering their efforts to stay inside.

No estimate yet on damages from the fire.

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