A nearly 180-year-old home on the Azalee Plantation in Webster Parish, Louisiana, was destroyed by a fire on Wednesday as stormy weather swept through the area.
The local fire chief told storm chaser Brandon Clement that while the start of the fire hasn't been officially confirmed, the probable cause was lightning.
"When I pulled up, the home was smoldering and the fire department was on scene," Clement told AccuWeather over a Zoom call. "Multiple trucks and engines were there trying to put the fire out, but it was still smoldering and the rain had just started to let up."
The Bryan House at the Azalee Plantation was destroyed in a fire after a storm swept through the area. (Brandon Clement/LSM)
Located about half an hour from Shreveport, Louisiana, the plantation home was constructed in 1842 and expanded around 1850. Due to its late Federal/Greek Revival styling, the home was registered in the National Historic Places Registry in 1999 as "one of the few buildings remaining to represent Webster Parish's earliest architecture history."
After a man named Harold Montgomery bought the property in 1954, he converted the former cotton plantation into a cattle ranch, naming it Ranch Azalee in honor of his wife, according to KPVI News. It was later turned into a wedding venue.
Before the fire, the plantation was home to Leigh Ann Montgomery Bates, who is the granddaughter of Harold and Azalee, and her husband Bradley Bates with their son. No one had been in the home at the time of the fire, Clement reported.
An aerial view of the Bryan House at Azalee Plantation after a fire burned the historic building. (Brandon Clement/LSM)
"I spoke to a lady that knew the people that lived there," Clement said. "She was close enough to watch the fire department putting the flames out and it's like a part of the landscape there -- a beautiful home on rolling acres. She's just kind of in disbelief that it was gone."
A cold front moved through the region on Wednesday with a line of slow-moving showers and thunderstorms just ahead of the front, AccuWeather Meteorologist Danielle Knittle said. The storms brought torrential downpours, strong, locally damaging winds and a tornado-warned storm was reported a little over 100 miles away from the plantation.
An aerial view of the burned Bryan House at Azalee Plantation. (Brandon Clement/LSM)
"With most thunderstorms there can be frequent lightning as well," Knittle said. "There were reports of wind damage in the adjacent county south; the only tornado reported in the state was a little over 100 miles away in northeast Louisiana."
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