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.
Rocky Mac says
Thank you Flagler County’s finest! This could have been devastating for the other homeowners in this area. Remember you may have only five minutes to evacuate your neighborhood in this situation. Have a bug-out bag ready just in case.
Jack Stewart says
Good job to the firefighters …with those high winds yesterday….things could have been a lot worst then they were.Thanks to all that fought the fire!
Great job to all of our local responders. True blessings to our community this holiday season!
From the cheap seats says
Why isn’t the building industry using, or at least telling, their clients to use non-flammable roofing materials? Findings from the 1998 fires indicate that fiberglass soffits acted like a match and ultimately ignited the roof trusses.
Bless our firefighters :)
We live across from this. What we saw of the firefighters was unbelievable. All did an outstanding job. organized, prompt, safely done. Nobody hurt. Thank you all for great job.
Brad West says
Great job to our firefighters.
I will say that I was disappointed in FlaglerLive and the limited updates. This was a perfect example of when to leverage social platforms such as Twitter and why a mobile responsive site is a must. This fire could have spread very very quickly across the entire county, but the updates were slow on those channels. This was a situation where that news needed to go out quickly and to the widest possible reach, and that’s where social and mobile come in today.
Yes, news sites are for writing the articles but today it’s about leveraging the power of the story, social platforms, and mobile all at the same time. Social media is not just fun promotional stuff, it’s about new channels to truly keep the audience informed. I think both local news outlets should take a more serious look at that segment f their business. I, for one, appreciate the coverage we get but I think now it’s time to take it to the next level locally.
Some very valid points here, Brad. But we were at the scene, within 10 feet of the fire, while the house was still being consumed, and were the only news media there. The immediate concern was whether the fire would spread. It wasn’t going to. That was made very clear by the firefighters’ quick action and Don Petito’s analysis at the scene. We made that clear in the story. There was nothing to update. Firefighters did their excellent job, the fire was itself demolished, and the two spot fires were very quickly obliterated. In other words this was not an ongoing event, but an event of limited scope with damage concentrated on that one house. Portraying it any other way, or stretching out useless updates for effect, would have been irresponsible. We do not believe in gimmickry, let alone “leveraging” a story across platforms for the sake of it. Nor do we believe in 140-character reporting. Incidentally, we’ve planned out a mobile site, but it carries its costs. We do have a contribution page.
Kudos to our brave firefighters!
Brad, I think your complaint needs to be directed to the fire and police departments as well as bigger local media. No offense but complaining that a small time news outlet with not near the same funding as others is a bit much… For the record, I heard it first on FlaglerLive’s Facebook page when no one else was reporting. That’s gotta say something.
We had rented this nice house for our wedding anniversary to have a great time with our children and grandchildren.
Our anniversary was in November but due to busy schedules the vacation was planned for February 2014.
I received from the rental company a message that the house was no longer available it had burned down.
When I started checking the news we noticed it burned down on the day of our wedding anniversary speaking of a coincident.
We wish the owner all the best it was a very nice location and we would have loved to spent some time there. Luckly we did found another nice place and I am sure we will have a great time.