Lightning strike causes fire at Choate Rosemary Hall building in Wallingford

Lightning strike causes fire at Choate Rosemary Hall building in Wallingford

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WALLINGFORD — Lightning struck the Hill House building at Choate Rosemary Hall, causing the roof to catch fire as storms rolled through the area Monday evening.

Firefighters from Wallingford and surrounding municipalities used ladder trucks to combat the fire, which was confined to a small portion of the roof but caused large amounts of smoke to billow over the center of town. The lightning strike at 138 N. Elm St. occurred around 6:20 p.m. and the fire was extinguished quickly, officials said.

Hill House is a sprawling, four-story building in the heart of the Choate campus. It was built in 1911 and is a registered historic building. In addition to housing students, Hill House is home to the private school’s dining hall and administrative offices.

Campus officials said students and staff in Hill House and the adjoining Andrew Mellon Library and West Wing buildings were immediately evacuated to the boarding school’s Worthington Johnson Athletic Center.

Choate spokeswoman Lorraine Connelly said students attending the school’s summer program were having dinner when they received a message to shelter in place moments before a severe band of thunderstorms moved quickly through the area.

“All of our students are safe and accounted for,” Connelly said.

“We are monitoring the situation closely and will be sending parents updates as soon as they become available,” read an email message that was sent out to the Choate community.

Alison Cady, another Choate spokeswoman, said, “We are not at full capacity during the summer, so we have plenty of additional dorms and residences for our students to get through tonight.”

Gavyn Sullivan, an 11-year-old town resident, said he saw a flash and heard a loud bang when the lightning strike occurred.

He and his father, Tom Sullivan, were among more than a dozen onlookers who watched as firefighters worked to control the blaze.

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