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Smoke in the Sky, Fire at Buccaneer Bay
Volunteer fire departments save home
August 9, 2022

arly in the morning on August 9, smoke filled the sky and neighbors began banging on the door of Paul Yankowski.

His garage was on fire. His house might be next.

The view from Smith Creek as smoke rose above the trees from the Buccaneer Bay West community. (Cindy Belangia photo)

Five volunteer fire departments responded: Station 19 Oriental VFD, Station 17 Triangle VFD, Station 11 Grantsboro & Silverhill VFD, Station 15 Arapahoe VFD, and Station 25 Florence/Whortonsville VFD.

“A structure fire requires an automatic five station response,” said Fire Chief Eric Kindle of the Southeast Pamlico Volunteer Fire Department. “Three are the primary response units and two serve as a tanker task force.”

One fire hose outside waters down the roof of the adjoining house. Another hose was pulled inside to keep the fire from reaching the rest of the home. (Ben Casey photo)

Kindle explained that the water supply in Pamlico County is not always good or available. So to compensate, the larger fire engines can fill up at hydrants outside the incident scene and bring water in to make sure the engines have an ample supply of water available.

SPVFD Assistant Fire Chief Bill Wichrowski explained that the pressure and force of the water creates an air current that can push the fire towards other buildings. With that in mind, firefighters positioned one fire hose outside the burning garage and took the other inside Yankowski’s house, to attack the fire from the side closest to his home.

Paul Yankowski was  accompanied by a deputy sheriff away from the intensity of the blaze when he appeared to be getting to close to the burning structure. (Ben Casey photo)

Unsure if the house would catch fire, the volunteer firefighters grabbed Yankowski’s wallet, phone, watch and several family photos off the walls, said Wichrowski. They were returned to him as he watched his garage being consumed.

Firefighters were able to make entry to the house and stopped the fire from spreading from the attic to the rest of the home. But the garage and its contents were gone; the fire had been going for some time before it was noticed or reported.

Phillip Nanney and Joshua Nunley pull a hose across the lawn, readying to put out the debris fire and cool the propane tank. (Ben Casey photo)

Kindle said, “based on severity of the damage to the garage and its contents, it appears that’s where the fire started.” A propane tank in the garage was left burning. The tank valve was open, and left to burn off as workers sprayed water on the surrounding smoldering debris and kept the burning tank cool.

Two Victory bikes and other vehicles were consumed by the fire. (Ben Casey photo)
A witness photo captured the aftermath – a completely gutted GMC Yukon.

Pamlico County’s nine fire departments are all volunteer. They are supported by funds from Pamlico County (in the form of a fire district tax) and through donations of time and money from the communities they serve.

If you’re interested in helping out, you don’t have to have fire fighting experience. “We can teach you what you need to know or you can attend the county fire academy for free,” said Kindle, “there are also plenty of other opportunities to help your local department, without turning out in full gear and fighting fires.” Kindle urges those interested to contact their local departments to find out how they can help.

Posted Tuesday August 9, 2022 by Allison DeWeese

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