LUMBERTON — Investigators are trying to determine what caused a golf cart to catch fire in North Lumberton on Monday, sending up a black plume of smoke that was visible from miles away.
The fire, which displaced one elderly couple but caused no major injuries, broke out in a cottage in the Wesley Pines retirement community on Wesley Pines Road at about 10:30 a.m., according to Lumberton Fire Chief Paul Ivey.
According to Ivey, the electric golf cart was parked under a car port attached to the home. While the fire department was en route, it was upgraded to a structure fire, he said.
“When we arrived on scene we found heavy smoke from the house and fire through the roof,” he said. The blaze was under control in about 30 minutes, but residents and curious passers-by continued to drive around the small cul-de-sac through the afternoon to see what had caused so much smoke to cloud the sky and Wesley Pines Road to be blocked off temporarily.
One reader, Sherry Fuller, commented on Facebook that she could see smoke from a home in the Saddletree area, about five miles away.
Amy Hammond, marketing director for the community, happened to be across the street at a different cottage when the fire broke out.
“We acted at the first explosion and the smoke was already up to the pines trees,” Hammond said, pointing out the 50-foot-trees shading the cul-de-sac where the cottage sits. Hammond said she heard a loud boom and then a few quieter ones, which she thinks were from a now-singed car under the car port.
Hammond said a couple that lives in the cottage were unharmed, as was a woman living in an adjoining apartment within the duplex.
A contractor working on some lights nearby was the first to spot the fire and notify others. Most neighbors were taken to the community’s main office for their safety, Hammond said.
“Between the contractor and our executive director, they pulled the residents out and they’re fine,” Hammond said, noting one was taken to Southeastern Regional Medical Center and released shortly after.
Ivey said the fire department will be looking into the make and model of the golf cart to see if there had been any recalls that could have prompted the fire.
The fire destroyed the golf cart and carport and tore into the right side of the home, taking a chunk out of the roof and peeling some siding. A window on the front of the home was shattered but it was unclear if the fire blew it out.
“It could have been a whole lot worse,” Hammond said. “The quick action of our staff made all the difference.”
Fortunately, the couple will be able to move into a nearby vacant cottage that has some furniture in it.
“They’re displaced so we’re just doing all we can to help them out … it’s an overwhelming experience to walk into, say, Walmart and look at all you need to buy,” Hammond said.
For now, Hammond asked that locals keep those affected by the fire in their thoughts.
“Just send out their prayers that these residents get back to where they were,” she said.