March 12, 2008

Ocracoke museum to open March 19 despite February fire

The Ocracoke Preservation Society Museum will open for the 2008 season on Wednesday, March 19, despite a fire in late February that could have been devastating. 

On Tuesday, Feb. 26, a lightning strike started a fire on the roof of the museum. Although a storm had passed over at about 3 p.m., the fire wasn’t discovered until about 5:30 p.m.

DeAnna Locke, OPS Administrator, was in the building when the fire was discovered.

“The fire must have smoldered for a couple of hours before Jerry Midgett noticed flames coming out the roof and Ronnie Van O’Neal noticed that my car was in the parking lot. Ronnie Van ran in and told me to get out,” she said.

When Locke left the building, she learned that Jerry Midgett had called 

911, and the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department was already on its way.

“Our fire department was so fast and efficient,” Locke said. “They had the fire out by 7. The fire was contained in the roof and around a chimney. It could have been so much worse.”

The rooms affected by the fire were the museum’s upstairs library and storage room, and the bedroom and gift shop downstairs.

Locke reported that there was very little smoke damage and not as much water damage as she would have expected.

“When they let me go in later with a flashlight, I was amazed,” she said. “For every firefighter who was spraying water, there were two carrying out papers and artifacts. The only things that are a total loss are gift shop stock, which can be replaced. We are very fortunate.”

The museum’s spring hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.

A new exhibit will celebrate the life of Muzel Bryant, a member of Ocracoke’s only black family and the last one residing on the island who died in February, just short of her 104th birthday.

Also, the museum also needs volunteers to staff the gift shop during business hours.


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