Updated 01/31/2013 09:00 PM
Large fire rips through Surf City motel
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SURF CITY, N.C. — A family-operated motel burned after an early Thursday morning fire in Surf City.
The fire broke out at Tiffany's Motel, a popular establishment for more than 30 years. Surf City resident Jeremy Johnson said he works the night shift and saw the flames.
"The whole building was engulfed. Flames were probably 15 feet, 20 feet long. And the wind was pushing it all," said Surf City resident Jeremy Johnson.
Strong winds helped spread the fire to two houses, one destroyed and the other partially damaged. Officials say both homes were empty.
"There were a couple of people walking down the street that I guess heard sirens and stuff. The fire department was everywhere,” said Johnson.
Surf City Police, the State Bureau of Investigation and ATF officials started their investigation once the fires were contained. They believe it started in the motel.
"One of the rooms was occupied at the time. One of the persons that was in the room left the room to get money out of the ATM and he came back and his room was on fire,” said Chief Mike Halstead of the Surf City Police Department.
While the winter winds caused problems for the firefighters, police say the situation could have been even more intense.
"If it had been in the tourist season, we were lucky only one room was occupied. The fire department, all of the fire departments that responded did a fanstasic job of getting it under control in under 30 minutes, 30 to 45 minutes,” said Halstead.
Owners of Tiffany's Motel were not available for comment, but those who live in the area say they will recover.
"Surf City, we call if the garden spot of the world because a lot of people vacation here and have for many years and will continue to. This will not set us back. We are a very resilient community. We bond together when you have devastations like this,” said Surf City Mayor Zander Guy.
Fire crews are still investigating to determine exactly what caused the fire.