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Oak Island, NC, motel destroyed in overnight fire

Multiple fire crews battled a large fire at the Ocean Crest Motel Sunday night into Monday...
Multiple fire crews battled a large fire at the Ocean Crest Motel Sunday night into Monday morning. (Source: Natalie Tyner)(Natalie Tyner (custom credit) | Natalie Tyner)
Updated: Mar. 4, 2019 at 5:36 PM EST
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OAK ISLAND, NC (WECT) - Crews from more than a dozen fire departments in Brunswick County battled a massive fire that significantly damaged the Ocean Crest Motel in Oak Island late Sunday night.

Emergency crews were called to respond to the motel on East Beach Drive around 10 p.m. for a “heavily involved structure fire.” Witnesses said the flames, aided by winds from a passing storm system, shot as high as 30-40 feet in the air as the fire spread.

Video shows dense fire through most of the motel with some rooms on the top level completely burned through.

The Oak Island Fire Department said the blaze was brought under control around 1 a.m. Monday, and was contained to one of the motel’s buildings. Several neighboring buildings and vehicles sustained heat damage from the fire.

An employee of the motel said no one was staying in the portion of the building that was burned because work was being done on the decks so that part of the motel was closed.

About two dozen people were staying in other parts of the motel.

No injuries were reported. Oak Island officials said one firefighter was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation.

Hotel owners Walter Lorgan and his wife live in the building that was destroyed but were able to escape unharmed after the front desk alerted them a 911 call was made by a guest. They lost everything in the fire but are overwhelmed by the support they’ve received from the community.

“My plan for today is to make sure my people here are comfortable with the rooms,” Lorgan said.

The Lorgans, who have owned the motel since 2000, have no plans to rebuild the 10,000-square-foot building that housed 20 oceanfront rooms and employed 14 people.

“It’s gone. We have more rooms left but this was my premiere building. It brought in 70 percent of my revenue and it’s gone. It can’t be rebuilt,” Lorgan said. “This is our retirement and our primary possession and we have lost everything. We are going to keep the other rooms up and running.”

Crews from Boiling Spring Lakes, Civietown, Grissettown-Longwood, Shallotte, Southport, St. James, Sunny Point, Sunset Harbor, Supply, Tri-Beach, and Winnabow assisted the Oak Island Fire Department with the fire.

Investigators are trying to determine what sparked the fire.

“It’s devastating,” Lorgan said. “We were in the process of remodeling the building, putting new balconies on.”

A weather system that brought heavy rain, gusty winds and occasional lightning was moving through Brunswick County ahead of the first 911 call about the motel fire.

Michael Sorkin, who lives a few houses down from the Ocean Crest Motel, said he saw lightning and heard a loud boom of thunder that shook his house around 10 p.m. However, he didn’t think much of it until he saw a big orange glow in the sky as he was getting ready for bed.

“The wind was incredible. The flames were at least 30 feet above the building," Sorkin explained. “It’s just a shame to see all the work they’ve been doing and lose it to a massive fire which was really out of control and burning hot, and now what you see here is just ashes.”

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