June 19, 2014


Fire damages house in Buxton,
starts brush fires...WITH VIDEO and SLIDE SHOW


By IRENE NOLAN



A fire at a house in Buxton in the vicinity of Rocky Rollinson Road today severely damaged the structure, started several brush fires, and caused a closure of Highway 12 in the area for several hours.

The fire, which was reported about 12:30 p.m., was at the home of Courtney and Melissa Whitehead at 47660 Highway 12. It was a three-story, newly constructed house where the couple lived with their three children. 

Bryan Perry, chief of the Buxton Volunteer Fire Department, said all three floors of the house were badly damaged and that the roof was destroyed.

Today's weather didn't work in favor of the firefighters.  It was hot, humid, and very dry with southwest winds blowing at about 18 with gusts to 22 mph.

Perry said that burning embers from the house started multiple brush fires in the area.

Buxton, Frisco, and Hatteras fire departments were on the scene, along with a brush truck and crew from Avon.  Another crew from Avon and the Salvo Volunteer Fire Department were on standby in case there should be another fire call in any of the villages.

"All of the departments on the island responded," Perry said, with trucks and/or firefighters or standby duty.

Also on the scene was the North Carolina Forest Service.

Perry said that despite the weather, there were no casualties from the heat among the firefighters. 

"A couple had to sit out for a while, but that's all," he said.

The cause of the fire hasn't been determined, the chief said.  At about 5:30, he said that the firefighters were still on the scene extinguishing hot spots. He said the fire department would monitor the scene for hot spots during the night.

Highway 12 traffic was routed for several hours onto the Buxton Back Road from PNC Bank on the north to the Crossroad near Buxton Village Books on the south.

The fire did not spread to any other structures -- even with the gusty winds -- but for a while, Rick and Wendy Riopel of Buxton were sweating heavily while trying to protect a rental house they own across a canal and to the east of the fire.

A neighbor alerted the Riopels to the fire.  They rushed to the scene, and they are glad they did.

"It (the fire) jumped the canal and came over to our side," Wendy said late this afternoon.

Her husband kept putting out the hot spots with a garden hose until a fire department brush truck and the Forest Service arrived.

The southwest wind, she noted, was just right for bringing the fire their way.

"The embers and chunks of things kept blowing into our yard and landing on the deck," she said. 

The house is rented this week, Wendy Riopel said, but the renters were at the beach or fishing for the day and didn't find out about the close call until they arrived home in the late afternoon.

Even so, Wendy said that she'd rather that her family lost a rental house than to have a family lose their home.

"They (the Whiteheads) are going to need some help," she said. "I'm sure they are just in shock right now."

Luckily, she added, they live in a community that is known to rally around those in need.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW SLIDE SHOW



Video by Hunter Thomas


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