UPDATE: Authorities Investigating Three Early Morning Fires In Carolina Beach

UPDATE: Authorities Investigating Three Early Morning Fires In Carolina Beach Featured

By / Local News / Saturday, 06 December 2014 05:00

By: Willard H. Killough III
Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - Firefighters responded to a total of three fires on Carolina Beach Avenue South and at the Sea Ranch Motel in Carolina Beach this morning. The first started sometime around 2am at an oceanfront condo building. Then another several blocks south of the first fire. Then farther south at the Sea Ranch Motel on South Lake Park Blvd. Police have a suspect in custody and will release more information as the investigation continues. There have been rumors of fatalities circulating through the community, but at this time authorities are still trying to locate one individual that may be unaccounted for. No fatalities have been confirmed. The name of the suspect in custody has not been released. Investigators with the State Bureau of Investigation and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives along with local fire investigators continue to investigate the scene. 

The area looked like a war zone with the occasional sound of car tires and likely gas tanks in vehicles rupturing. While firefighters worked to control the first condo fire, power transformers were popping and large pieces of the structure were falling to the roadway below. As firefighters worked to control the blaze and stop it from spreading to adjacent multifamily buildings, someone announced there was another fire nearby. The mood among firefighters and crowds watching from nearby was one of disbelief. Assistant Fire Chief Granger Soward raced to a fire truck and headed south several blocks to find a vehicle on fire with flames spreading to another large oceanfront condo building.

Police officers at that time were searching the area on foot for a suspect seen running along the beachfront. Then officers rushed to South Lake Park Blvd because of a report that an individual was running down that road headed south. Shortly after that, word of another fire at the Sea Ranch Motel was was announced.

Soward used the public address system on the fire truck to alert people to evacuate the second condo building as smoke and flames crept closer and started running up the outside wall. Residents gathered with their pets across the street. Residents were directed to walk north to a Town parking lot where a command center was organized. The Red Cross set up a tent and began passing out blankets and water to residents who sat on nearby curbs and bumpers of ambulances waiting for more information fro authorities. Detectives with the Carolina Beach Police Department were speaking with witnesses throughout the morning gathering statements.

Fire Chief Alan Griffin coordinated with other fire departments from Kure Beach, the City of Wilmington, New Hanover County and even a department from as far away as neighboring Pender County. One important factor that helped firefighters control the fires was the lack of ocean-breeze or strong winds. The air was largely calm.

At the present time, all three fires are under investigation. If anyone has information about these incidents please contact Detective Moore of the Town of Carolina Beach Police Department at 910-508-3975.

Update: 12 noon, December 6th, 2014:

The Red Cross has set up a temporary Resource Center in the Town of Carolina Beach Recreation Center located at 1121 N. Lake Park Blvd. Anyone needing assistance resulting from these tragic events may go the Recreation Center or contact the Red Cross at 910-509-8038.

Due to these events, Duke Energy is reporting approximately 100 customers in Carolina Beach without power. Services will be restored as soon as possible. Information about outages can be reported to Duke Energy at 1-800-419-6356 and a coverage map of the outages is available on their website at http://outagemap.duke-energy.com

According to Town Manager Michael Cramer, "We are currently identifying all residents, renters and visitors in the area of the three locations, in order to assess short and long term needs. To request information about potential individuals affected or to report the names of people in these areas please contact the Red Cross at 910-509-8038. At this time we do not have a list of needs for the victims, however, the town is working with several local non-profit agencies to establish a donation center for financial contributions. As more information is developed we will pass it along."

The Red Cross disaster relief is set up at the Carolina Beach Recreation Center. They said any and all donations as far as toys blankets and clothes should be made to the Salvation Army or Goodwill. That is where they will collect items to give to victims of the fire. Anyone interested in donating gift cards and other items can bring them directly to the Recreation Center, Red Cross staff during rec center hours. The Recreation Center is located behind Town Hall at 1121 North Lake Park Blvd.

Councilman Steve Shuttleworth said Saturday, "Please see the Link on the Town website for the latest information on local relief efforts. This is a fund that will be used to provide assistance to those families so tragically effected by last nights fires. The Mayor will have an additional press announcement posted soon. In addition to this several Island organizations and individuals are stepping up to offer some points of contact. Jay Muxworthy, Greg George, Jamsine Mckee, the Island Men are a few. If you know these folks reach out and I'm sure there are others. Hopefully a coordinated effort will help all those effected and provide the most benefit. The residents of this island are an amazing group of caring souls."


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