Workers picked up the pieces after lightning struck at least two St. Louis County buildings during overnight storms.

Mehlville Assistant Fire Chief Dan LaFata said all signs pointed to lighting as the cause of a major fire that destroyed a south St. Louis County assisted living center.  It was set to open this summer.

Mattis Pointe Assisted Living, on Mattis Road, was still under construction, and unoccupied when the flames broke out early Wednesday morning.

LaFata said: “I would expect it had been burning for some time, it was a pretty big fire burning in the attic of the structure. Neighbors called us when they saw flames that were about 40 feet in the air.”

When firefighters arrived, the building was fully engulfed. They battled the flames with heavy rain at their backs. A storm had just rolled through; an early hint that was later confirmed as the cause of this fire. “All indications point towards a lightning strike at this point, LaFata says.

A spokesperson for the assisted living center, owned by Americare, said the building was a total loss. The fire damage was worse because fire prevention equipment wasn’t installed yet.

LaFata explained: “In this case, there was nothing to discover the fire except for the neighbors, so that put us behind a little bit.”

Meanwhile in Ladue, also overnight, lightning struck the chimney on the middle school building at MICDS.

Grounds crews discovered the damage early this morning. A school spokesperson said students were relocated from top floor classrooms, and workers spent the day securing the loose brick and the surrounding roof.

For lightning to strike two buildings in one night? Those fighting these fires said it happens more often than you’d think.  

“It does happen of course, yes,” said Mehlville’s Assistant Fire Chief.

Mattis Pointe Assisted Living was slated to open in July.  Spokesperson Pat Cokingtin said at least three future residents have already submitted a down payment.  She says the center could still open on time, as there is a second residential building on site that wasn’t damaged in the fire.  Cokingtin said the building that did catch fire will likely take a year to rebuild.

Americare — based in Sikeston, Missouri — operates 105 assisted living communities in five states.