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Lightning may be cause of two Orange County house fires

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Fire officials said lightning is believed to be the cause of two house fires in Orange County Tuesday afternoon.

Orange County fire crews responded to a house fire at 7391 High Lake Drive in the Hiawassee Oaks subdivision.

The man who lives in the house said he was sitting by a window when the lightning struck. He said he saw a big white flash.

Isabelo Ulitin said he's never seen or heard anything like it.

He said the whole house shook but he didn't know the lightning bolt hit his roof.

Ulitin said that a few minutes later he started to smell smoke. As the smell grew stronger he started looking around the house and realized the smoke was coming from inside his house.

"I feel very, very helpless because it's a big house and I didn't want to lose the house," said Ulitin.

Firefighters said the flames were shooting up at least five feet in the air when they arrived.

They said because lightning was still flashing they couldn't put the ladder up.

The house was filled with thick smoke.

"The fire was in the attic, so it took us a while to get to it since it's two-story,' said lt. Richard Arrowood, an Orange County firefighter.

At one point there were seven fire trucks on the scene as they fought to save the house.

Ulitin said he's grateful that the lightning did not hit while he was sleeping because he says he could have suffocated from the smoke before he ever knew what had happened. 

Just before 1 p.m., firefighters were dispatched to a house fire at a large home on Cypress Drive in the Dr. Phillips area.

Firefighters arrived at the house to find fire and smoke coming from the roof, according to a fire department representative.

It took firefighters about 30 minutes to extinguish the fire.

A neighbor told fire dispatchers that they believed the house to be vacant.

Because the fire was in the roof area of the house, firefighters suspect it was caused by lightning.

Both fires started as strong storms began to move through central Florida.

There were no injuries reported in either fire.