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Furious flames engulfed a home on Lanes Mill Road near Lovers Leap Winery on Tuesday, resulting in the "total loss" of the house, said Mike Barnes, Anderson County fire chief.
The house belongs to Jerry Holder, who owns the winery. Holder and his family were on vacation in Florida at the time of the fire, so no one was injured, Barnes said.
"They have been notified, and it is my understanding that they are on their way back," he said.
The cause of the fire has not yet been determined, the fire chief said.
"We can't pinpoint the cause, but we're looking at lightning," he said, adding that a state police officer who lives in the area reported several large bolts of lightning during that time.
Barnes said firefighters responded at a little after 8 a.m.
Engine 51 was the first to arrive on the scene and verified heavy fire involvement on the basement and first floor of the house, Barnes said.
"We immediately started a defensive attack on the fire," he said.
Several factors were working against the firefighters, Barnes said. The fire was discovered late, meaning it was at an advanced stage when they arrived. Flames had already burst through windows, and a strong wind helped push the fire, he said.
Barnes said there is a very small window of opportunity to knock down a fire.
"It got ahead of us, and we weren't able to get ahead of it," he said.
By noon Tuesday, firefighters had the fire "pretty much extinguished," Barnes said.
"They're still working on some hot spots," he said, adding that most of the structure collapsed creating pockets where the fire could hide.
Fire investigators are on the scene trying to determine a cause, Barnes said.
The length of time it will take to find the cause "depends on the situation and the amount of damage - and we've got heavy damage," he said.
"The longer it lays there and burns, the more it destroys the evidence of how it started," he said.
Firefighters did eventually gain access to the basement and were able to retrieve a "good portion" of the family's records, Barnes said.
Three engines, five tankers and about 20 firefighters worked the scene.