UPDATED: Four confirmed dead following early morning fire in Buxton

[photo courtesy Edwin S. Grosvenor/Island Free Press]

Dare County Emergency Management has confirmed that four people died as a result of a fire early Friday morning in Buxton that sent two others to the hospital.

“Thoughts and prayers are with all who have been impacted by this tragic fire, especially those that lost loved ones,” said Drew Pearson, Dare County Emergency Management Director.

“We thank all those that answered the call, from the 911 call takers to each and every first responder, numerous volunteers and the fire investigators for their tireless efforts,” Pearson said in a statement issued Saturday morning.

Pearson said the names of the deceased are being withheld, pending notification of their next of kin.

On Friday evening, officials announced members of the U.S. Coast Guard and their families were among those involved.

“With great sadness, I have confirmed that the family of one of our active duty members is currently unaccounted for,” said Capt. Matt Baer, Commander of Sector North Carolina. “Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers while we investigate this incident with local authorities.”

Volunteer fire departments from Buxton, Hatteras and Frisco responded shortly after 4 a.m. to the 46000 block of Cape Hatteras Lane after a caller reported that flames were visible at one home.

Dare County EMS was also dispatched to the scene and took two individuals to the Outer Banks Hospital in Nags Head for care.

A second alarm went out shortly after, and additional units responded from the Avon Volunteer Fire Department. Also responding were the Dare County Sheriff’s Office, Hatteras Island Rescue, Kill Devil Hills Fire Marshal and the American Red Cross.

Residents in the area state that they were awakened by an explosion at around 5 a.m., followed by some pops, before the fire progressed quickly. Firefighters were at the scene well into Friday afternoon working to extinguish hot spots.

The remains of the duplex where the fire appeared to have originated. [Don Bowers/Island Free Press photo]

“In addition to the individuals currently unaccounted for, three other Coast Guard members and their families were displaced by the fire,” Baer said. “They are currently in a safe shelter location.”

The fire happened in the Cottages at the Cape neighborhood, which was once part of military housing dating back to 1958 for Naval Facility Cape Hatteras.

The base and housing was transferred to the Coast Guard in March 1984, according to CottagesAtTheCape.com.

The Coast Guard rebuilt the housing in three phases from 1993 to 1995, before Hurricane Ophelia damaged utilities and underground services making part of the site uninhabitable.

That section is now in Cape Hatteras National Seashore and was recently converted into a parking area and beach access.

Cottages at the Cape is a privately-owned combination of one single family home and 22 duplexes that offer year-round housing for 15 families and weekly rental of an additional 30 units.

“Members trained in critical incident stress management are currently enroute to support those impacted by this tragedy,” Baer said Friday. “We are also working with the Coast Guard Foundation and other organizations to further support our members and families during this difficult time,”

“The Coast Guard is a small organization,” Baer said. “This tragic incident impacts not only this family, crew and station, but various members, families and units throughout the Coast Guard.”

Investigators from the State Bureau of Investigation, Office of the State Fire Marshal, the Dare County Sheriff’s Office and the Dare County Fire Marshal assisted by Buxton firefighters continue to investigate the cause of the fire.

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