Fire Demolishes House in Painter’s Hill and Jumps A1A to Island Estates Before It’s Stopped
FlaglerLive | November 24, 2013
A fire that started at about 3:15 this afternoon in a vacant, two-level house at 3519 North A1A, in Painter’s Hill, was fueled by 40 mph winds off the ocean and had quickly engulfed the structure in flames by the time firefighters arrived at the scene.
Fire devoured the wood and block house in a little over half an hour as firefighters struggled to keep the flames, which at one point had leapt some 20 feet in the air and across A1A, from jumping the highway and lighting up fires to the west. But the fire did jump, burning two acres across A1A in Painter’s Hill, and about an acre in Island Estates, Flagler County Fire Chief Don Petito, who was at the scene, said.
“We got a call for a structure fire,” Petito said, as firefighters were dousing the house in water and Fire Flight, the county’s emergency helicopter, flew above, trailing a water bucket, “we got here and the entire house was engulfed. This was a two-story house. When we got here we were met with 40 miles-an-hour winds off the ocean, which blew the fire across A1A and then across the Intracoastal into Island Estates. So we had three separate fires.”
Six fire engines were at the scene, including those from Palm Coast, Flagler County and Flagler Beach fire departments, along with two or three rescue units from the county, and the Division of Forestry. Fire Flight was scouting any potential flare-ups from the air. It had dumped water on the smaller fires that had spread.
“The house is a total loss,” Petito continued. “We believe that it was vacant. The fire right here directly across A1A turned into a brush fire, you see Fire Flight up there, he’s making sure that it’s out. Took care of that with hand lines and with Fire Flight, but then we staged in Island Estates because the wind was blowing the fire over there. They were able to catch a small fire before it got anywhere.”
The Division of Forestry sent a tractor to Island Estates and was monitoring the fires along A1A. Officials had at one point become very concerned that the fires would spread uncontrollably, because of the wind. But firefighters were able to get the situation under control relatively quickly, even as Fire Flight eventually had to be grounded because of too-windy conditions.
There were no injuries. Only local traffic is being allowed south past the Cam Del Mar intersection on A1A, and no traffic is allowed south of Varn Park.
“We’ll probably be here for a couple of hours making sure there’s no flare-ups. You feel the wind, this was a wind-driven fire, there was nothing we were going to do to stop it.” The heat from the fire melted the soffits on the house just north of the one that was demolished, but otherwise that house was spared further damage. “There was fire all the way in the back of this house and all the way around it, but we were able to save that house,” Petito said.
Officials don’t yet know what started the fire. “We don’t have any eyewitnesses. When we got on scene it was totally engulfed,” Petito said. “And there was nobody here. So we’re going to do the investigation, call the state fire marshal out.”
An Orlando doctor, now deceased, owned the gray house, a neighbor said. The neighbor remembered that the house had been up for rent. The Flagler County Property Appraiser lists the house’s ownership under Marks Family Inc., a 2-year-old company established in the name of Henry Kurtz-Marks of Austin, Texas, Mary K. Marks of Ocala, and Kathleen Henderson of Van Buren, Arkansas. The 2,400 square-foot house had an assessed value of $113,000 in 2013, on land valued at $271,160, with extra feature values as well, for a combined taxable value of $387,000. It was not homesteaded, and was current on its taxes.
Two lots south of the burned structure, a white house sold in the last few days for $1.4 million, Bruce Campbell, the Flagler Beach city manager, said as he arrived at the scene in painter’s gear: he’d been painting a house when he heard of the fire, and rushed north, thinking it might be burning inside the Flagler Beach city limits.