Condos destroyed by fire brought many memories

By on January 10, 2013

View from the south shortly after the building collapsed. (Rob Morris)

County Fire Marshal Steve Kovacs and property manager Jeff Shields look over the remains Friday. (Rob Morris)

Fifteen oceanfront condominiums in Kill Devil Hills were consumed Thursday by a huge fire that burned for almost 12 hours.

The first alarm came at about 6:45 p.m. as flames from the building quickly rose above the 35-foot rooflines of nearby houses. The intense glow of the fire could be seen from miles away.

On Friday morning, owners and property management of The Seven C’s joined fire officials looking over the remains, which were little more than a smoldering heap of charred wood.

The ruins wer still smoldering Friday. (Rob Morris)

A melted piece of an ice maker and the partially burned pages of a book scattered in the sand were among the few clues that the condos had hosted vacationers for 30 years.

The fire’s heat left the plastic case of an untouched fire extinguisher at the pool house eerily twisted.

Three women staying in one of the condos were the only occupants at the time of the fire, said Kill Devil Hills Assistant Police Chief Dana Harris. They escaped unharmed.

Condo owner and board member Lissa Matthews said many renters had been repeat vacationers for years at the individually owned units.

“So it’s a little more wide-reaching than just the homeowners,” added Jeff Shields of Seaside Management, which handled rentals.

Firefighters working on the south side of the building. (Rob Morris)

Video by Russ Lay.

The building had been renovated about two years ago with new decks, siding and windows. Each unit was two bedrooms and two baths, Matthews said.

Kill Devil Hills Fire Chief Troy Tillett said Friday that no cause has been determined yet. Investigators from the Dare County Fire Marshal’s office and Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk fire departments are looking into it, he said.

One fire fighter was taken to the hospital Friday morning for an ankle injury.

Tillett said he was concerned about secondary fires from heat and cinders blowing west from the oceanfront. While some dune grass ignited, only minor, superficial damage was visible on a house next door.

A large crowd gathered as police closed off N.C. 12 and crews from fire departments in Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, KDH, Colington, Nags Head and the N.C. Forestry Service worked on containing the fire.

But the flames quickly consumed the wooden structure, and within a half hour it had collapsed.

Also reporting were Russ Lay and Sam Walker.

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