Christmas fire destroys two Slaughter Beach homes

Memorial Fire Company fire fighters of Slaughter Beach check on hot spots after 3 homes were destroyed on Christmas night. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

SLAUGHTER BEACH — The scars of a devastating fire that took place Christmas night told some of the tale of a blaze that destroyed two beachfront houses in the 300 block of Bay Avenue in Slaughter Beach.

On Tuesday morning a tall brick chimney stood high in the air with no house attached to it while a charred and burnt detached garage was also left without an adjacent home.

Memorial Fire Company fire fighters of Slaughter Beach spray water on hot spots after 3 homes were destroyed on Christmas night. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

Terry Jester, fire chief for the Memorial Volunteer Fire Company in Slaughter Beach, said no serious injuries were caused by the fire.

“It’s unfortunate for us but it’s way worse for the people who live here,” he said. “We have two houses that are total losses and then one on each side that is affected.”

Five homes were affected by the fire, including the two that were destroyed.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday investigators for the Delaware Office of the State Fire Marshal searched for an origin and cause of the blaze and local firefighters kept soaking the scene to make sure the winds didn’t spark up another fire that might spread to the nearby marsh.

“Heavy fire damage is expected to exceed $500,000,” Assistant State Fire Marshal Michael G. Chionchio said. “This investigation continues.”

Firefighters from Memorial Fire Company look for hot spots after three homes were destroyed in Slaughter Beach on Christmas night. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

The fire was reported shortly after 7 p.m. on Monday night to the Memorial Volunteer Fire Company.

The first alarm was quickly upgraded to a second alarm incident requesting fire company tanker and engine assistance from more than a dozen companies and departments throughout Sussex and Kent County, from Little Creek to Rehoboth Beach.

Firefighters battle a fire that destroyed several homes in Slaughter Beach on Christmas night. Special to the Delaware State News/Chuck Snyder

Firefighters from the Memorial Volunteer Fire Company directed fire suppression efforts as they battled through high winds.

Chief Jester said they also had to deploy trucks capable of fighting brush and grass fires onto the beach because it, too, was catching fire.

“There were embers carried by the high winds and we didn’t want those to ignite fires and other houses,” he said. “We had about a 40 mile-per-hour wind that we were fighting out there.”

Special to the Delaware State News/Chuck Snyder

Chief Jester added one of the most difficult challenges the firefighters faced was that active power lines were on the ground and they had to let the first two buildings burn until the power was cut to them. They couldn’t get water on them.

Another issue the firefighters faced was a lack of fire hydrants.

It led to a blaze that burned late into the night before the firefighters were able to finally suppress it.

Chief Jester wasn’t sure if the two houses that were destroyed were currently being occupied or not but said, fortunately, nobody was injured in the fire.

“I’m not sure of the residency,” he said. “A lot of (the residents) are seasonal.”

Special to the Delaware State News/Chuck Snyder

Firefighters remained Tuesday morning watering down smoldering debris as three fire trucks from Slaughter Beach were also on the scene, along with an ambulance and a Delaware State Police helicopter.

“We’re just soaking everything down,” Chief Jester said. “This is our second time back out. We’re doing what we call ‘rekindle’ and we’ll be doing this for as long as the wind’s blowing. We don’t want it to get back into the marsh grass.”

Special to the Delaware State News/Chuck Snyder

The charred and smoldering debris on Tuesday served as a harsh reminder of what was a devastating Christmas night to at least a couple of families in Slaughter Beach when it came to their homes — but thankfully, Chief Jester said, not to their lives.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.