Following house fires, Ocean Isle Beach warns residents to disconnect batteries from flooded vehicles

Residents told to disconnect vehicle batteries and move cars out from under beach homes.
Updated: Aug. 6, 2020 at 8:09 PM EDT
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OCEAN ISLE BEACH, N.C. (WECT) - Fire crews from as far away as Horry County, SC helped put out another round of house fires on Ocean Isle Beach early Thursday morning. This time, two homes were destroyed and several damaged on Concord Street.

“Kind of soft boom explosions! Boom, boom, boom, three different times” says Randy Efird who was staying down the street. “In a matter of minutes, there were all kinds of lights and sirens.”

The cause of the fire was determined quickly. Ocean Isle’s Mayor Debbie Smith tells WECT a flooded vehicle had caught fire. That prompted this safety warning to be posted on Ocean Isle Beach’s Facebook Page:

FIRE PREVENTION. IMMEDIATE ACTION NEEDED! The Town of OIB is requesting all vehicles, including golf carts, be PUSHED...

Posted by Town of Ocean Isle Beach on Thursday, August 6, 2020

“Immediate action needed: The town is requesting all vehicles, including golf carts, be pushed from under structures that were affected by flooding. We also recommend disconnecting vehicle batteries as an additional precaution.”

To understand the mechanics behind the warning, WECT caught up with Chris Abrahamsen, the owner of Auto Tech on Carolina Beach Road in Wilmington.

“There’s consistent voltage to all the electronics in cars these days,” says Abrahamsen. “It’s not just the water, it’s the salt. What happens is this salt is a wonderful conductor of electricity and the connections start to heat up more and more until there’s a fire inside the computer, or inside the vehicle.”

Abrahamsen says it’s good advice to add another item to your checklist before the next storm hits. If you live near the water, make sure to disconnect your vehicle’s battery, before you end up sheltering in place.

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