Wind-swept fire consumes three Corolla houses

By on April 15, 2012

Update: Eighteen in one house escaped big Pine Island fire »

Three houses were hit in Pine Island. (Russ Lay)

Two houses were destroyed and a third was heavily damaged as fire spread quickly overnight in the Pine Island area of Corolla in Currituck County.

Unofficial reports from Twitter and Facebook, as well as transmissions monitored on scanners, indicated that fire departments from around the region battled the fire.

No serious injuries were reported.

Southwest winds of 17 mph were gusting to 22 mph this morning, according to the National Weather Service.

Saturday night. (Submitted photo)

Vehicles were also destroyed. (Russ Lay)

One of the houses was at the end of Hicks Bay Lane on a cul-de-sac. The other two were on an adjacent cul-de-sac at the end of Cottage Cove Road.

Many rentals in Pine Island are valued at more than $1 million. There are also some permanent residents.

The fire apparently was put out shortly before sunrise. Several vehicles were also destroyed. We will post more information as we obtain it.

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Ray O.

May 17, 2012 5:27 pm

My Friends and I were there when it actually happened. We were like 10 or 15 Houses up when we saw the Fire when it started. It is just a shame for this beautiful Houses to be destroyed, its a good thing that no one got hurt, or worst got trapped and killed!

John Ford

April 28, 2012 1:48 pm

Interesting discussion. I am a police officer who was on vacation staying four houses down on the night of the fire. As I ran to the scene and assisted the first few Fire Fighters pull hose, etc., it was evident that the first home was a total loss. I have always been impressed by volunteers as I was that night. They were organized, quick and professional. The prevailing wind conditions quickly spread the fire. My only thought, upon reviewing the incident, was that a full-time force may have brought equipment to the scene quicker and may have saved one of the homes. All in all, the men and women that volunteered to put their lives on the front line deserve accolades.

OBX Lover

April 19, 2012 5:47 pm

To Taxpayer: We were vacationing on the Outer Banks at Buck Island the night of the fires. At the beginning of the week there were 5 houses lost in VA Beach and they have a paid department. It is a great loss, but I do not believe that based on the extremely dry and windy conditions it would have made a difference. Thanks to the volunteers who give of their time to serve their community.

Joseph Vanderdys

April 18, 2012 7:33 am

Thanks to the firemen for doing such a great job in containing the fire. My house was one house away from the third home that burned.


April 17, 2012 4:04 pm

How about thanking the firemen and also thanking god that no one was injured? You can replace the homes and cars. Amen! Now let’s pray for rain and no fireworks!


April 17, 2012 8:31 am

un bloody real– the bickering and finger pointing when tragedy hits ‘
Loving the need sober responders Aint that true –Good luck on that…

Why does this Country allow our houses to be built non Fire proof ? People spend all kinds of money – for what I will call a slap n wrap– Basically fire waiting to happen- Smart builders would have cement between the walls – Big fire proof door between the rooms and Sprinklers in each room– Problem solved and lives saved—

Thank you to all our firemen n women

Hal Bruno

April 17, 2012 4:35 am

TaxPayer, this has nothing to do with paid or volunteer. The result would have been the same. It is hard for this area to sustain or justify paid firefighters even on the south end, and Corolla is nearly impossible to make a plausible argument. Were it not for the building boom in the late 80s/early 90s, coupled with power-hungry ego-centric politicians, and the decision for the fire departments to run every hang nail EMS call and fender bender, both counties would still be entirely volunteer.

Tax payer

April 16, 2012 9:02 pm

@ Ginny, armchair quarterbacks, back seat drivers – did you read what I wrote? The volunteer system is essential to put fires out in a large rural area. All I’m saying is that we need a few more guys/girls waiting and ready and sober for these incidents so they can get the ball rolling. Currituck County thinks two people can do something other than a medical call and that’s wrong. Just need more man power! Sorry to get your feathers ruffled.


April 16, 2012 7:31 pm

Thank god this was not a larger disaster then it was. Paid or unpaid these men and women did a phenomenal job rushing to a potentially deadly situation that they managed to get under control AND managed to keep from becoming deadly. They willingly sacrifice their time and lives to keep ours safe. All we should be saying is thank you!
It WOULD be nice to be able to pay them. Until we get our priorities straight in government and begin to pay the lowly civil servants (teachers, police officers, firefighters and other government employees) volunteerism will be necessary. Unfortunately most of these people work for little money or free. So STOP being “arm chair quarter backs” and “back seat drivers” unless you are going to fund these positions.
When we drove in for a look it was complete devastation. The surrounding houses were VERY lucky. This story could have had a much more tragic ending.
THANK YOU to ALL of those who responded. I feel lucky to have you in our community.


April 16, 2012 2:32 pm

How did they manage to lose 6 cars? I see 5 of them in the driveway, but why didn’t someone move at least some of them out of the way, especially since if the wind was coming from the west, the wind was coming over the cars toward the house not the other way around as it appears from the reports above.

Great job for all of the VFDs involved — you doubtless saved lives that night.


April 16, 2012 2:28 pm

The origin of the fire is still under investigation.


April 16, 2012 1:38 pm

Everyone be sure to keep these families in your prayers, although insurance will cover the house, the memories made inside of the house were priceless.


April 16, 2012 1:38 pm

well, i hope they are able to figure it out, and if it was something like that, i hope they find out who did it! it is absolutely beautiful up there . . . what a shame that it happened, and thank God it wasn’t worse and nobody died. considering the circumstances i think the fire fighters did an EXCELLENT job! :-D

Rob Morris

April 16, 2012 1:31 pm

kdhmom — Because they don’t know yet.


April 16, 2012 1:29 pm

why isn’t anybody mentioning how the heck the fire got started?!?!? was someone ILLEGALLY setting off fireworks right by the houses? i am amazed by the fact that the fires were put out before the sun came up – simply amazed. and, mr “ducksux” – insurance does NOT just “take care of the rest” – although it is very fortunate nobody lost their lives, the homeowners lost a lot more than what their insurance will probably replace!


April 16, 2012 12:14 pm

Do we know how the fire started?


April 16, 2012 8:55 am

As a guest to the area and living on Salt House Rd. the night of the fire, It was unbelievable how quickly the fire spread in the winds. I saw the fire spread from the back to a fully involved fire in no time. Paid crews wouldn’t have made a difference. Thank god the wind was coming from the west or there could have been many more houses damaged. As an observer from the beach deck, the fire was completely out by 6am. They had the fire out in less than 8 hours. GREAT JOB CREWS! We feel very fortunate that the fire didn’t spread further down the beach.


April 16, 2012 8:45 am

Thanks to all the firefighters paid and volunteer. You did a great job in a tough situation.
This comment is to anyone who could do a better job fighting fires,get out of your chair and go volunteer. It’s a great and rewarded experience and you get to do it for free.I know I voluntered for 20 years in the fire service.

Mother of a Paid Fireman

April 16, 2012 7:29 am

All who give of their time and energy to respond to these disasters are to be commended. The training required to be a firefighter, EMT, first responder etc. is unbelievable and we need to be ever so grateful that there are those who would choose to help protect us and our property. The type of disaster that took place on Pine Island tests the best of us and hopefully building regulations and water supply issues might be updated as we learn more ways to help prevent this in the future…thankfully, no lives were lost and any injuries are easily cared for. Property can be replaced. Thank you to everyone who willingly puts themself in dangers way…be safe.

Tax payer

April 16, 2012 6:40 am

@ fireman wow get off my duff. I have been a paid Fireman in a combination fire dept for 15 years trust me I train. Like I said a fully paid crew standing by backed up by volunteers would stand a better chance at keeping the fire to one house. I am sorry I didn’t say good job guys to begin with. But it upsets me as a tax payer when the county fathers won’t put out more money for corolla than the main land. The houses on the mainland are on two acre lots. But the staffing level is the same. I believe the county would rather insurance company’s pay for the fires than staff the stations with more than two medic/firefighters. Maybe the out come would have been the same but there is a reason that NFPA REQUIRES 2 fully staffed engines and a ladder truck to be there in less than 12 minutes. If you want to mount a decent attack.


April 15, 2012 11:54 pm

good training for all those different departments!

Insurance takes care of the rest. Not like these folks were residents, they don’t have anything in them that money can’t buy back!!


April 15, 2012 10:18 pm

Many sincere thanks for coming to our aid and assistance last night. Thank you to the many volunteers and responders who rushed up here on a Saturday night to battle the 150 foot flames and shifting winds that confronted them. While our hearts and prayers are with the owners who suffered losses, we are grateful that no one died or was gravely injured from the fires and that the losses were not greater. Many good points made above – close proximity of structures, dry spell, winds, and challenges of water supply/pressure. We’ll be thinking through what steps can be taken to help dial down the risks here and will work with the professionals and the county for their further assistance. Thank you again.


April 15, 2012 9:43 pm

Fires have sprung up in these low humidity, dry ground conditions all over the country. It’s not necessarily the proximity or number of firefighters. It’s the conditions.


April 15, 2012 9:30 pm

Fireman: Amen! In the push to shove a lot of taxpaying property into a small space, we’ve not zoned correctly, it seems. Compound that problem with a lack of hydrant power, and you have a real problem. Think what would happen in a fully involved home/brush fire burning out of control. Is there any firefighting from planes or helicopters available in a true emergency or are we going to have to work with the limited number of stations available on OBX (some of these are 40 minutes away on a good day)?


April 15, 2012 9:16 pm

Greg- 2 were on Cottage Cove, one was on Hicks Bay. The one at the very end of Hick’s Bay (shown on the map) with the long driveway.


April 15, 2012 7:53 pm

Corolla has 2 fire stations. Whalehead is the main station, Pine Island is the substation. The EMS crews on duty from the County are also cross-trained as firefighters. The rest of our firefighters are volunteers. Most are retired, and volunteering with us is their way of giving back. The Corolla Fire Department was on scene within 7 minutes of the call going out. The home was already fully engulfed. Between the winds, the close proximity of the homes, the materials used to build the homes, and water problem, we are incredibly lucky there was no loss of life. I agree with Tax Payer in that we should have paid firefighters on duty here in Corolla, considering we live in one of the richest counties in North Carolina. I consider myself lucky to volunteer with them, and I am so thankful for our firefighters, volunteers or not.


April 15, 2012 6:27 pm

Taxpayer you should get off your duff and come on out or some training with your local volunteer fire station we have as much training as any paid system. We have equipment that is as good as a paid system the real issue here is and will continue to be in the future is water supply the system that was installed in the part of the county in not large enough to handle the water flow required to fight a fire like this. Also the other issue in my opinion is how close they were allowed to build these huge homes to each other. There are products out there to help slow down this kind of fire that these houses could be built with there are residential sprinkler systems these could be required by code but are not at this time.

barbara b

April 15, 2012 5:33 pm

A great big “Thank You” to all our volunteer of firefighters!!! God bless you all.


April 15, 2012 5:27 pm

Hey tax payer
While having manned crews may have helped can’t say for sure as there is no way to compare. Please bear in mind that multiple paid crews with some of the highest level of training in the state of Virginia could not contain a wind driven fire to its unit of origin the other day. I say that maybe the best they could do with the resources available was contain this too three but even with two paid crews of let’s say four people each that’s only eight people vs the number of people initially paged for your Chesapeake or Virginia beach which is upwards of 20 personnel. That was a fire that upon arrival taxed the resources available. I’m not saying that either case was wrong or right what I’m saying is before you complain about the lack of paid personnel think of what the number of personnel needed for this would be, because two engine company’s aren’t handling this incident alone.


April 15, 2012 5:07 pm

The 3 houses were on Cottage Cove Road, not Hicks Bay Lane.


April 15, 2012 4:40 pm

Having lived in an area that had a bad fire, I can say that an on hand fire department might not have made a difference. I lived close to an area that lost 45 cottages/rentals in a fire and they had a full time department. It went to 14 alarms (meaning 14 stations/towns) in a matter of minutes. It’s all about the conditions when the fire breaks out. It’s lucky three houses were all that were damaged/destroyed.


April 15, 2012 4:19 pm

Tax payer should get all the facts about this fire before criticizing the event. Listening to radio traffic that night it was apparant that the house was fully involved before the FD was even called, and it was less then 10 minutes before the first fire truck arrived on scene from dispatch. With the winds blowing 17-22mph or higher, it was a good job from the local vfd, plus the numerous other paid and volunteer depts. that showed up for mutual aid, to keep the damage down. Noone was killed or injured in reports that I have read, so I count this as a win. Thanks to everyone that responded to assist.

Currituck Resident

April 15, 2012 3:38 pm

Hey @Taxpayer, There is a firefighters station in the area right near where the homes were. I actually believe there is two fire stations.


April 15, 2012 3:00 pm

If you,ve seen the news lately in VA Beach with all their paid fire fighters they lost 5 houses in a kitchen fire. The volunteers we have here are excellent!

Todd Jr

April 15, 2012 2:46 pm

A paid department wouldn’t make a difference in a wind driven fire. FDNY has the same problem. 2 paid firefighters in philly were just killed in a fire driven by wind that started several other fires. Great job goes out to all involved its not easy fighting fires on a perfect day in a perfect world. But what depts overcome to get the job done would amaze you. Volunteers are always the unsung heros they always get told if only the dept was paid. You you guys on the outer banks did an excellent job. Keep up the great work and those who say they should be paid should put the money forward to pay them. Just remember you cant tell a volunteer to run into a burning building they do it for free.


April 15, 2012 2:01 pm

To Tax Payer: you are right but they still needed additional help from virtually every fire department from mainland Currituck to Manns Habor. The conditions could not have been worse last night with the wind and dryness here. The only good thing is that the wind was not on shore or we would have had a natural disaster on our hands with all the brush in Pine Island. Thanks to the all the fire fighters!

B Payne

April 15, 2012 12:39 pm

The conditions were perfect for this fire…lots of wind and no humidity. Plus when you have lots of huge wooden structures so close together it is a recipe for disaster…


April 15, 2012 12:39 pm

interesting. those darn winds!


April 15, 2012 12:10 pm

Pretty work firefighters! Could have been far worse w/o your efforts.

Tax payer

April 15, 2012 11:17 am

I know we don’t have that many of these BIG fires, but when is currituck going to invest in some paid firefighters to protect all these rental houses that bring so much money to the county. I know they are expensive but two paid crews manning corolla’s stations would have a good chance at keeping the fire to only the house of origin. Don’t you think we owe it to the renters and residents of curritucks biggest contributor of taxes. I believe the volunteer system works but only when the first responders have enough people to make an effective attack and backed up by responders from home.

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