The second of two lakefront fires in a span of four days now has an answer for its cause and the total damage, but what two displaced homeowners will do next is another question.
At 1:30 p.m. Jan. 11 the Tega Cay Fire Department answered a call to 1075 Gauguin Lane in Tega Cay, the long-time cove side home of John and Claudette Murphy. John Murphy made the call for help, while Claudette was not home at the time. She was home later last week inspecting the damage, though she had a hard time calling her residence of more than 35 years home.
“We’re homeless now,” she said. “We don’t know what we’re going to do.”
The American Red Cross assisted, while the Murphys also had friends helping them through the transition. The gutted home caught fire from something electrical in the garage, Claudette Murphy said, where there was a refrigerator and freezer.
Lou Jarvis, site inspector with York County Department of Fire Safety, said following an inspection that an extension chord was to blame.
“The cause was accidental,” he said. “It was due to an improper use of an extension chord, and it started in the garage. Caused about $300,000 in damage.”
In her time in Tega Cay Claudette Murphy remembers other fires, even on in the same area just two years ago. Yet with her own home gone, she does not know what her next steps –whether or not to rebuild – will be.
“We’re 74, so we don’t even know if we’ll be around by the time something is done,” she said.
Only days prior to the Tega Cay lakefront fire another incident occurred within sight of the water, this time on the northern stretch of the lake and, authorities said, not by accident. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police charged Stephen Anthony O’Brien, 58, with one count of felony arson after an early morning Jan. 8 Emerald Point condo fire causing $500,000 in damages for nine residential units. As in the Tega Cay fire no one was injured, though two women required rescuing by firefighters including one from a third-floor balcony.
In recent years numerous upgrades to lakefront fire safety have been made, including the addition of new fire boats in Tega Cay (2005) and Gaston County (2008), along with the opening of a Steele Creek station of the Charlotte Fire Department on Hwy. 49 (2007) and another lakefront station (2008) that includes boat docks. Firefighters from numerous departments during the openings of those stations and additions say more homes and larger homes on the water are a growing concern.
In the condo fire, the recent addition of fire stations in Steele Creek specifically helped to avoid any injuries, or worse.
“One of our newest fire stations was built just a few miles down the road,” Capt. Rob Brisley told the Charlotte Observer after the incident. “Having three companies there was the reason that lives were saved and over half of the buildings did not suffer damage.”