Robert and Joan Brown were drinking coffee Monday morning at their home in Killingworth when they heard an unusually loud bang. It was lightning and in all likelihood it was the spark that caused the fire that eventually destroyed their neighbor's garage and three cars inside of it.
"It was horrible," Joan recalled Monday afternoon. "We heard this huge crack that sounded like a gunshot in your ear and we both jumped off the floor and I looked over and right after that is when I saw the flickering of a fire."
Joan immediately called 911. Meanwhile, despite the pouring rain and rumbling thunder, her husband rushed next door to 20 Cow Pen Hill Road, scaling a stonewall before making it to his neighbor's front door.
"He's in good shape," Joan said about her husband, a retired state police sergeant.
Robert knocked several times but when no one answered right away, he contemplated breaking a window. But before he could, the homeowner came to the door.
"He says 'Mike, get out of the house, your house is on fire. The garage is on fire,'" said Mike Board.
It turns out, the 72-year-old was home alone. He'd heard the lightning strike but wasn't aware that his house was now on fire.
Within minutes, the Killingworth Volunteer Fire Department arrived on the scene. Firefighters from Haddam, Clinton, Madison, Chester, Deep River and Durham were also dispatched to provide mutual aid — including bringing in water needed to knock down the flames.
By the time the fire was out, Board's garage and three cars — including a 1988 Lincoln Town Car in "brand new" condition — had been destroyed.
"This is just material stuff," Board said, still wearing the t-shirt and socks given to him by a neighbor.
While the fire marshal has yet to officially rule whether lightning caused the fire, Joan said she hopes to never have to go through anything like this again.
"It was like split second decision," she said. "My husband went over there and rescued Mike. Afterwards, he came over and thanked us."