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Apartment fire displaces four; lightning suspected as storms roll through Denton County

Firefighters suspect a lightning strike triggered a fire that displaced four roommates at the 14 Fifty-One apartments overnight Tuesday. 

According to Assistant Fire Chief Kenneth Hedges, the Denton Fire Department received the call at 10:54 p.m. Firefighters with the first unit to arrive reported the fire visible on the roof of the three-story apartment complex, located at 1451 Centre Place. 

The fire was primarily contained to the building's exterior and was out by 11:15 p.m. The fire caused about $5,000 in damage, Hedges said. 

One apartment had water damage that displaced the four people living inside. The manager of the property, which caters to college students, put the four residents up at a nearby hotel for the night, Hedges said. 

An investigation is continuing into whether the fire was caused by lightning. 

Although the probability was low, thunderstorms were forecast Tuesday night. Storms popped over Wichita Falls and gust fronts slowly triggered more storms to the south and east toward Denton, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Juan Hernandez. 

"A pool of cold air rushed toward the area as a result of the storms," said Hernandez, who works in the Fort Worth office. 

Beginning about 8 p.m., gusty winds, lightning and clouds slowly approached Denton from the horizon until the storms finally arrived about 10:30 p.m. and the winds calmed. 

Denton Enterprise Airport recorded four-tenths of an inch of rain, the first measurable precipitation for the month. The storm also brought temperatures down for a few hours. 

It will be another week before the area will see more rain and temperatures return to normal, Hernandez said. 

"The weather pattern will be changing, but slowly," he said. 

A major system will move its way to Texas from California early next week, bringing rain and cooler temperatures. By Thursday of next week, daytime highs should be back in the low 80s, Hernandez said. 

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881.

FEATURED PHOTO: Lightning strikes can seen late Tuesday night as a line of thunderstorms rolled through Denton County. The lightning is seen looking west from Ganzer Road about three miles west of Interstate 35 in northwest Denton County.
(Courtesy photo/Krista Sanders)