CAROLINA BEACH –– It has been nearly three months since a fire ravaged a condominium complex at Carolina Beach, causing injuries to residents and the total destruction of one building. Local investigators were joined by the State Bureau of Investigations (SBI) and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) in the aftermath.
Flames originated in an outdoor common area, likely from the embers of a cigarette that were spread through the air by ripping winds, according to a previous news release from the Carolina Beach Fire Department.
Carolina Beach Fire Chief Alan Griffin told Port City Daily the department has completed its investigation.
“The SBI and insurance companies[’] investigators are finalizing their part of the investigation,” Griffin wrote in an email to Port City Daily. “We will not put a final ruling until both of those agencies have notified us of their findings.”
Eyewitnesses said on Apr. 2, smoke began to protrude from the second story of one condo building. The billows were followed by an explosion-like sound that accelerated the blaze, blackening the sky and leaving some residents with only one option: jumping from their second- and third-story balconies to the ground below.
“There is a high level of confidence that the fire was NOT intentionally set,” Griffin wrote in an email. “Based off evidence and eyewitnesses on scene providing us the general area of origin of the fire, there is a high probability that the fire was accidental.”
On Apr. 2, three Paradise Cove residents told Port City Daily that one woman living in the community — who had reportedly been hospitalized that day after a forced jump from her balcony — had a stalker. These residents speculated about the role the alleged stalker could have played in the blaze.
Griffin confirmed investigators were aware of this allegation and the lead was pursued.
“Yes, we had several leads that we followed up on by CBPD,” Griffin wrote. The leads were “based off of information received from public and residents. At this time all persons of interest have been cleared,” he added.
Local investigators reviewed social media content and available video security footage in the investigation. Authorities interviewed eyewitnesses, Paradise Cove residents and “subjects of interest” in recent months.
“Investigators confirmed there were multiple residents who had smoked on the property the day of the fire,” according to a previous news release. “The high winds and the location of the fire being outside of units and in an area with no fire sprinklers or smoke detection allowed the fire to rapidly spread undetected and cut off all stairways for building occupants to exit safely.”
An SBI spokesperson forwarded requests for comment to Carolina Beach officials. An ATF spokesperson told Port City Daily: “ATF deployed special agents and a certified fire investigator to assist local public safety agencies and provide technical support during the Paradise Cove fire investigation. Our agents have completed their investigation into the cause of the fire and have submitted the findings to the State Bureau of Investigation.”
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