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Straw Bale House Burned by Lightning Storm, No Insurance

Back in the mid-1990’s we built a straw bale house near Dwight, Nebraska. Today (June 19, 2022) I found out that it burned due to a huge storm that passed through the county, causing a lightning strike directly on the house, blowing out the east wall. Fire caught inside the house, burning it.

Before you see the pictures of the burnt home, which are devastating to the owner, Wade Johnson (who is my friend and had bought the house from us back in late 1999 as a finished shell), please picture the house as I designed it, which included these features:

  • 24×50 feet with loft (approx 1800 sq ft)
  • Load bearing straw bale walls with center beam down the length
  • Alternative green-treated foundation with packed sand-and-gravel
  • Passive Solar design (southern exposure solar gain)
  • Wood stove heat and water heating backup
  • Earth tubes for passive cooling
  • Greywater system
  • Composting toilet (CT)

The house, after purchase, was put on a septic tank instead of a CT, and the earth tubes and greywater system were eventually not used, per the new owner’s prerogative. Since then, Wade has lived happily in the house, making upgrades inside and decorating with a lot of beautiful antique furniture.

However, 23 years after purchase, and without insurance to cover the home (alternative construction is difficult to find insurance for), lightning hit the house and destroyed it in a fire. We are just glad that he and his animals got out alive!

Straw bale house burned due to lightning – June 16, 2022
Straw bale house burned
Image from the GoFundMe set up by Wade’s friend.
You can see the fire damage to the metal roof.
Salvaged items on the lawn. Too much damage was done by the fire.

As you can see from the images above, Wade was lucky to salvage some of his belongings from the house. The fire burned out most of the furniture and wood framing.

The bales, the walls themselves, mostly smoldered and did not burn completely, however. The exterior walls are still standing, but there is too much damage to repair or recover the home–it will need to be torn down. 🙁

Wade’s friend set up a GoFundMe fundraiser, which we have supported financially. It is still open as of this writing, so if you find it in your heart to donate, please do.

Donate to Wade’s GoFundMe to help him build a new house

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