‘It’s honestly a miracle’: Neighbors describe Ocean Isle Beach fire; fire fighters investigate cause

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OCEAN ISLE BEACH, NC (WWAY) — Towering flames forced more than a dozen people to flee a raging fire at Ocean Isle Beach Wednesday night. Neighbors say it all started with an explosion.

Sean Guenther and his family with young children were vacationing in Ocean Isle Beach, when Wednesday night they suddenly heard a sound that shook the house.

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“We heard a loud bang,” Guenther remembered. “We thought one of the kids fell out of bed. We kind of ran to the steps to look, and we saw a giant blaze out the side door.”
Guenther says adrenaline kicked in. He grabbed his sleeping 3-year-old and ran with the rest of the family as far as possible, seeking shelter at a neighbor’s home.
He watched the blaze that burned two houses on Ocean Isle Boulevard. One of those homes was being rented by a family of 18. Sean says he can’t believe how lucky everyone was, with no one seriously injured or killed.
“The fact that… everybody in general as a whole was safe is honestly a miracle,” he said.
Ocean Isle Beach Mayor Debbie Smith says she watched as five to seven fire fighting departments responded to the blaze. While the fire’s cause is still under investigation, Smith says the family of 18 renting the first house that caught fire said it started in the garage.
“I believe the renters did say that they had some electric bikes plugged in the garage,” Smith continued.

Every witness WWAY spoke with said they heard a loud bang or explosion near the first house, spreading the fire quickly. Fire fighters are still looking into that claim, but do have a theory.

“The fire department suspects there was a propane tank, line, or something that was between the two houses that burned,” Smith explained. “I do not know which house it was on…. that may have caught fire. And that’s why they were unable to keep it (from) spreading to the second house.”

Sean Guenther spent Thursday afternoon on the beach close to his family, feeling even more lucky to be alive.

“It’s overwhelming. It’s scary. I’ve never been a part of something like that before. I’m just glad that houses can be replaced, cars can be replaced, but people can’t.”