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Fire Claims River Dunes Idea House
Lightning Linked to Blaze
July 22, 2010

he River Dunes Idea House, the 5,000 square-foot, pine-floored structure that served as model home and charity fundraiser, was destroyed by fire late Wednesday night. Lightning is suspected.
The remains of the River Dunes Idea House

Eyewitnesses at River Dunes say lightning struck the building around 11:00 pm Wednesday night and within minutes, flames were seen behind the windows. Shortly thereafter, the entire building was engulfed in flames. Responding to the scene were 7 fire stations and 15 fire-fighting vehicles from Oriental, Florence/Whortonsville, Arapahoe, Bayboro and Reelsboro.

This photo captured the intense glow created by burning Idea House. It was taken at aprox 11:25p Wednesday night by Loring Kitchens, who lives on Broad Creek about two miles away from River Dunes. The photo shows the intensity of both the fire and the lightning. Kitchens stated that he saw lightning strikes hit in the vicinity of River Dunes even after the flames were underway.

Richard McAdoo with the Florence/Whortonsville station says that by the time crews arrived, the fire was so violent that “the exact shape of the house was visible in one giant fireball”.

Nearby structures, a cottage and a chapel, were doused with water to prevent ignition. It worked. Lou Jiannine with the Florence/Whortonsville fire department says tankers were refilled at the community’s boat launching ramp. Intense heat thwarted attempts to save the structure. By 2:00 am, the structure had crashed to the ground and fire crews began extinguishing hot spots.

Ed Mitchell in front of what was the Idea Home’s front porch. Mitchell credits fire crews with saving nearby structures. Visible in the background is the chapel. The flames were so intense the chapel’s windows were cracked.

Ed Mitchell, president of the River Dunes Corporation, says the home was valued at “north of 3 million” dollars. It did not contain sprinklers. Mitchell credits the fire crews’ containment efforts with keeping the damage limited to one home. “They are the heroes” he says. “Most important”, Mitchell notes, “no one was harmed. This is nothing that can’t be replaced”.

Carol McAdoo, speaking from the scene the morning after the blaze, recalls the time she spent in the home. McAdoo was a tour guide when the house was called the “Coastal Living Idea House”. The guided tours of the home raised funds for the HOPE Clinic. At Christmas time, between visitors, McAdoo recalls writing holiday cards while “sitting in the little office in the front of the home, looking out over the harbor.” It was a “gorgeous” home she says, filled with “precious rugs and furniture.” One of her fondest memories is of how she and fellow volunteers “used to pretend it was ours”.

Mike Craig extinguishes buried embers

Twelve hours after the blaze began, the remains of the Idea House had not been completely extinguished. Excavators were expected on the scene. The machines would “pull back the tin so we can put the rest of the fire out” says Mike Craig of the Oriental fire department. The tin roofing, which had collapsed onto the building’s remains, prevented water from reaching lingering embers.

Bubbled paint on a picket fence

An investigation into the fire is expected.

Posted Thursday July 22, 2010 by Bernie Harberts

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