Fire Marshal: Cause of Bellefont fire “undetermined”

Published 4:43 pm Friday, January 26, 2024

What caused a fire that destroyed Bellefont Plantation earlier this month remains “undetermined,” according to the Beaufort County Fire Marshal’s Office. 

Circumstantial evidence was collected at the scene of the former event and wedding venue – a tree toppled over a power line that fed to the home. This caused the power line and neutral line to contact each other, feeding power back to the house via the neutral line. When emergency responders arrived, the power line was broken and on the ground, according to a report published by the Fire Marshal’s Office on Friday. 

There were other possible causes; however, parts of the electrical system and appliances were destroyed from the intense heat and/or ruined by “unavoidable actions needed to extinguish the fire.” 

“Old Ford Firefighter Ingram reported that the security gates were closed upon his arrival, and that he forced them open to gain access to the property. He also discovered that a tree and a portion of the power lines had fallen across the path causing an additional delay to the fire scene. These obstacles were cleared by responding personnel allowing for access to the structure and the implementation of suppression efforts,” the report states. Ingram was the first arriving responder and observed the home fully engulfed in flames. 

When the fire at Bellefont erupted on Jan. 9 at around 6:45 p.m., Beaufort County experienced a severe winter storm. There was heavy rain and a frequent southeast wind gust of 50 to 60 miles per hour. There was no lightning detected in the area at the time and temperatures were in the low 60’s, per the report. 

The following day, investigators spoke with Bellefont owner, Phyllis Boyd, who explained that the home had not been used for events since Dec. 16, 2023. She said there were no events held inside, and no one had been inside the event space. She said there was no construction taking place in or around the home. There was no evidence someone had been on the property, and there was no evidence of criminal activity, investigators stated in the report. 

Responding agencies included Clarks Neck Fire Dept., Old Ford Fire Dept., Grimesland Fire Dept., Washington Fire / Rescue, Chocowinity Fire Dept., Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office and Beaufort County Emergency Service. The fire was eventually extinguished that night and a fire investigation was requested by Chief Dixon of Clarks Neck Fire Department.