A lightning strike near a home in Saco set a four-unit townhouse on fire Wednesday afternoon and knocked out power to the surrounding neighborhood, but all of the residents of the building escaped unharmed, fire department officials said.

When crews arrived at 42 Cumberland Ave., they found an unoccupied basement unit on fire, which had broken out near a washer-dryer. Heavy smoke spread from the basement throughout the duplex, causing extensive damage, said Capt. Chris West of the Saco Fire Department.

“We’ve seen flashes of lightning and even thunder this afternoon,” West said. Winter ended March 20, just two weeks ago.

West said it appears that lightning struck a nearby utility pole around 2 p.m.. The bolt may have traveled underground because a water main was destroyed and the basement unit suffered the most damage. The entire neighborhood lost electrical service, according to West.

“One of the utility poles was completely destroyed,” West said.

West said Central Maine Power Co. crews were on the scene Wednesday trying to repair damage and restore power to neighboring homes.

The fire remains under investigation.

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