After the 2019 Surf City fire, crews work to rebuild seven homes


For brief moments, the serene neighborhood of The Peninsula in Topsail was disturbed by the echo of the thud of a pile driver pushing heavy wooden poles into the ground.

Around the same time two years ago, neighbors in the Surf City community saw their peace and quiet interrupted by sirens after a fire destroyed seven homes along Atkinson Road on September 28. 2019. After investigations, an official cause has not been determined by several agencies.

John Cassidy, owner of Pilings & More, is one of many construction crews to rebuild what has been lost. Loud banging noises were necessary for the foundation of a house.

“I’m sorry for the people,” he said of the 2019 fire. “It’s a loss, but it’s a good thing no one was hurt. main.”

John Cassidy III installs stilts Thursday morning to rebuild a house in Surf City destroyed by fire in 2019.

Nearby, another crew from Lighthouse Marine Construction removed burnt wood from a boat dock and hauled the new plank to rebuild what he called a total loss.

“It’s tragic that this has happened, but there is nothing you can do about a fire,” said owner Darrell Erny. “We’re doing the best we can with what we have. It’s been about two years since we’ve been able to get the permits to do this. It’s been a long process for these owners.”

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Planks from a wharf near Atkinson Road in Surf City are removed by workers from Lighthouse Marine Construction.

It’s a procedure Brandon Batson is familiar with as a real estate agent and broker for the Coastal Realty Associates office in Surf City, a company that helps clients find the right home in The Peninsula at Topsail. Batson said some owners are in the process of rebuilding, while others have decided to go in a different direction. So far one of the houses is nearing completion, with the ground for a few other lots.

“It will be some time before the whole gang is rebuilt,” Batson said.

Pender County property records indicate that tax records for multi-family homes showed estimated values ​​ranging from $ 390,000 to $ 520,000. As well as boat access to the Atlantic Ocean via the Intracoastal Waterway, some of the other features listed include a bird conservation area, private beach access within walking distance, and other features.

Fire crews are working at the scene of a fire in Surf City on September 30, 2019. The blaze has consumed a row of homes on Atkinson Road, off South Shore Drive.       [MATT BORN/STARNEWS]

“You can’t ask for a better sunrise and sunset than living on the peninsula,” Batson said.

He hopes homeowners and families can return to this point of view soon.

“It’s just slow… dealing with insurance can take a while,” Batson said. “I think it needs to be rebuilt and it will look great when finished. It looks good before and it will be even better now. I don’t think there is a risk of fire, it could happen in any community. We were lucky that it happened on the peninsula which is not really close to the other houses. ”

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A team of construction workers from Lighthouse Marine Construction work on the reconstruction of a pier destroyed by a fire in 2019 in Surf City

Batson is also hoping that the insurance payback matches the current value of the homes, especially with the rising costs of building materials.

“If these houses were there today, they would have been much more numerous today than at the time of the fire and even the value of the land may have doubled since,” he said. “The value of the house will be higher. I just hope the insurance gives them enough to cover what they need to rebuild.”

Several houses are rebuilt on Atkinson Road following a fire in 2019.

What happened?

At the end of September, no official cause of the fire had been announced. Batson said litigation and deciding who will pay for damages through insurance companies could delay that. Some people think the windy conditions may have been a factor.

“With the wind, when a house catches fire, it often happens that two or three of them catch fire,” Cassidy said, taking a brief break from work. “A few years ago on Waterway Road at Sneads Ferry, three houses got lost and it was the same. Three caught fire when there were high winds.”

Fire crews are working at the scene of a fire in Surf City on September 30, 2019. The blaze has consumed a row of homes on Atkinson Road, off South Shore Drive.       [MATT BORN/STARNEWS]

Batson said a sea breeze hit the other structures to the east after a house caught fire.

Surf City and Pender County Fire Department officials said on Wednesday the start of the 2019 blaze was still undetermined. The Atkinson Road fire was Surf City’s largest residential structure fire in recent memory, said Surf City Fire Marshal Jonathan Burton.

“Unless further information is received or the recovered items provide clues, the fire will most likely remain of an undetermined nature,” Burton said.

Using construction equipment, John Cassidy III of Pilings & More works to rebuild a house damaged by a massive fire in Surf City.

But in the meantime, Burton is still advising residents of Topsail Island and surrounding areas to be vigilant of conditions, while taking steps to be safe.

“Wind is a constant environmental factor in our coastal communities,” said Burton. “This comes with the added danger of a fire that spreads faster when it occurs. If any materials burn outdoors, whether cooking, recreational fires, or open fires, they should be closely watched and extinguishing tools such as fire extinguishers or garden hoses should be carefully monitored. be readily available if the fire starts to get dangerous or out of control. Also, be sure to follow any fire ordinances in your city or jurisdiction. “

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