Ralls County Courthouse evacuated after possible lightning strike

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The east side of the Ralls County Courthouse. -Photo by Megan Duncan

NEW LONDON, Mo. — The Ralls County Courthouse was evacuated Friday afternoon after a fire started because of what is believed to have been caused by a lightning strike.

New London Fire Department Safety Officer Brian Reed said courthouse employees called emergency services reporting that fire was coming out of the outlets and smoke was coming from the second floor. 

Ralls County Western District Commissioner Brian Hodges said the electricity is on and the computers work. No damage has been found. 

Hodges also said someone sitting outside near the Ralls County Sheriff’s Department said they saw lightning strike the back of the roof.

Reed said no fire was active, but electrical experts were coming in to evaluate the situation.

Presiding commissioner John Lake confirmed lightning struck, but it would have hit the lightning rod. They are sending people back into the courthouse and will be continuing to conduct inspections throughout the day.

With storm predictions for tonight, Reed said they are also securing an alternate space as a tornado shelter if they are unable to reopen the courthouse.

Ralls County’s courthouse, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1858 and is one of two 19th century Missouri temple-style courthouses still in use as an official county building. The other, in Lafayette County, dates back to 1847.

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