PHOTOS: Wrightsville Beach fire chief credits quick response for saving houses in Monday Pelican Drive fire

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A late night fire heavily damaged a Wrightsville Beach home Monday night, marking the second straight night the Wrightsville Beach Fire Department responded to house fires as the town’s fire chief crediting the help from neighboring jurisdictions for keeping the town’s biggest blaze in nearly a year contained.

Fire Chief Glen Rogers said the fire did about $1 million in damage to the home on 42 Pelican Drive, which was currently being listed for sale a $3.9 million. The most extensive damage was to the back of the house,  as both of the house’s back decks were charred black on Tuesday morning, along with the inside of the house leading to the second-story deck.

At about 3 a.m. on Monday morning, local fire crews responded on Seacrest Drive, which was more quickly contained and caused up to $50,000 worth of damage to the A-frame house, destroying the back deck.

Rogers said Monday’s Pelican Drive fire was the worst in the town since last May’s fire that destroyed King’s Beachwear by Johnnie Mercer’s Pier. However, he praised the response of the department’s interns, volunteers and neighboring Wilmington and New Hanover County fire departments for keeping the fire contained to the house on Pelican Drive.

“We wanted to keep it this house here. There were two houses about 10 feet apart, and we upt a lot of effort into protecting those homes,” Rogers said.  “We were able to knock it down pretty quick.”

Rogers said units from Wilmington arrived about 10 minutes after his firefighters were on scene, giving the effort a “fresh breath” at the crucial early stages of the response, which he said helped make the difference in keeping the fire contained. Palm trees in the neighboring yard were scarred black from the fire, while a plastic fence on one side had warped from the fire’s intense heat

The fires occurred during heavy rains, including during a flash flood warning from the National Weather Service for the Pelican Drive house. Rogers said both started on covered decks, giving them shielding from the rain.

“It’s unusual to have fires in the heavy rain,” Rogers said. “In both cases it didn’t seem to put the fire out, but it didn’t make it worse.”

The fire on Pelican Drive created some dangerous conditions for firefighters, as officials had to make sure that firefighters didn’t fall into Lees Cut while battling the blaze from the narrow back yard bordering the water channel.

Pelican Drive homeowner Howard Stein was out to dinner when the fire occurred and was notified by a neighbor. He praised the strong response from local firefighters, observing that as many as 30 firefighters were on scene.

“They did a great job. They were terrific,” Stein said.

One of Stein’s neighbors said that she had little worry about the fire due to the strong response from firefighters.

“It was like something out of a movie,” she said. “They were worried about the fire, so I wasn’t.”

Rogers said careless disposal of smoking materials was the likely cause of the Seacrest Drive. Investigators were investigating the cause of both fires on Tuesday.

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