UPDATE: Two recent Hatteras
fires are ruled accidental
By IRENE NOLAN
County fire marshal Steve Kovacs has determined that fires at two
Hatteras Island businesses during November were accidental.
first was the fire that was first reported by a passerby in the early
morning hours of Nov. 18 at the main office of Outer Beaches Realty in
Avon. Four island volunteer fire departments and about 40
firefighters battled that spectacular night-time blaze.
the damage was in the center part of the large building that, in
addition to the realty company, also contains two apartments and
several other offices. The apartments and offices, on the west side of
the building, sustained mostly water damage, Kovacs said just after the
fire, and the east side of the building, where the realty office is
located, sustained smoke and water damage.
Kovacs said that he
has ruled out arson in that fire. While he said that he and others
involved have several theories about how the fire started, his official
ruling is "accidental."
Outer Beaches President Alex Risser
agreed this week that the cause of the fire is mostly conjecture but
that the most reasonable theory centers on an outside electric outlet
under the building.
The thought, he said, is that, over time,
salt could have corroded the outlet to cause the blaze. Even though the
outlet is above flood level, he added, tide from one or more recent
storm could have compromised it.
Contractors started tearing
down the burned-out center part of the building earlier this
week. Risser said that only the center part will need to be
rebuilt. Both ends of the structure were saved, along with the
'foundation' -- the pilings and part of the floor.
The exterior and floor plan, he said, will be about the same, though the signature tower may end up in a different location.
company, which employs about 70 people year-round and about 200 in the
summer, relocated many employees to a large house nearby, where served
as a central offices. Other employees, he said, were reassigned
temporarily to office in Waves and Hatteras village.
that it had been rewarding to him to see how the whole community pulled
together to help the realty company get back up and going immediately
after the fire.
He said he is both thankful and proud that so
many came to the company's aid -- from other companies, including
competitors, to suppliers and friends and neighbors.
fire in November -- on the afternoon of Sunday, Nov. 23 -- damaged the
west end of Lee Robinson General Store in Hatteras village.
owners, Belinda and Virgil Willis, live next door. They were at home
and had been working around the store that day. They smelled
smoke and immediately reported the fire.
The Hatteras Village
Volunteer Fire Department and several others immediately responded and
the fire was rather quickly brought under control and extinguished.
That fire also was accidental, according to Kovacs, who said the cause was most likely a faulty electrical cord.
The Willeses reopened the store two days later with the help of many of their friends and neighbors.
"Our community is wonderful," Belinda said after the fire. "We are so blessed to live on Hatteras Island."
Outer Beaches' Avon office extensively damaged by fire
Fire damages Lee Robinson General Store