Seven homes were destroyed in Sunday’s fire, but investigators haven't found a reason yet
SURF CITY -- A preliminary investigation of the fire that destroyed seven homes in Surf City was inconclusive, said Allen Wilson, fire chief for the town. The fire started on Sunday evening and claimed sound-front homes, as well as boats, vehicles and docks on Atkinson Road. Investigators were at the scene for most of the day Monday and the case remains open.
“The cause was undetermined,” Wilson said. “It means there are causes we can’t rule out.”
Investigators -- including fire marshals from Pender County and Surf City and representatives from the State Bureau of Investigation and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) --were at the fire scene until Monday evening. Now the area has been reopened for property owners, and insurance companies can conduct their own investigations.
“When we are looking at cause and origin, we have theories and we go in to try and prove or disprove them,” Wilson said. “It wasn’t possible here.” He added that investigators followed several leads, including reports of power surges in the area.
“We talked to several witnesses, including residents and contractors about the surges,” he said. “Again, it’s nothing we can prove as the cause, but we can’t rule it out.”
Wilson said the case is still open because new information may be revealed in the coming weeks and months.
Now, recovery and cleanup can begin, said Surf City Mayor Doug Medlin. Most of the homes destroyed in the fire were vacation properties, he said, but fundraising efforts have begun for the family that lost their primary residence. That includes a GoFundMe account for the Schiefelbein family, which says Matt and Allison and their three children lost their belongings and vehicle in the fire.
Allison Ballard can be reached at 910-343-2075 or firstname.lastname@example.org.