West OC Blaze Destroys Vacant Home, Blocks Traffic

WEST OCEAN CITY – A fire in West Ocean City on Tuesday claimed a nearly 90-year-old vacant house and wreaked havoc on afternoon rush hour traffic along the heavily traveled corridors in the surrounding area.

The Worcester County Fire Marshal’s Office this week is investigating the cause of the fire at an old vacant house located on a 46-acre-plus otherwise undeveloped parcel near the intersection of Center Drive and Keyser Point Rd. First-arriving units found the residence, built in 1920 according to the state Department of Assessment and Taxation (SDAT), completely engulfed in flames with fire spreading into the nearby woods.

Firefighters and equipment from all over the region responded to the fire as the Ocean City Volunteer Fire Company was assisted by volunteer fire companies from Ocean Pines, Berlin, Showell and Bishopville. Other fire companies from nearby Sussex County, Del. also provided manpower to help battle the blaze.

The fire, which sent smoke billowing skyward that could be seen from miles around, was quickly brought under control although getting to the blaze proved problematic. Access was made difficult because of the structure’s distance from the roadway and the narrow driveway with years of low, overgrown brush.

The fire caused major traffic tie-ups throughout the West Ocean City area on the north side of Route 50 during the afternoon rush hour of business and school traffic. For example, Keyser Point Rd. was blocked off at the fire station not far from Route 50 and Center Drive was blocked off just west of Ocean City Elementary School (OCES), prohibiting many residents of the densely populated area from access to their homes. The road blockages also curtailed access to the election day polling place at OCES, although voters were offered an alternative route.

Ultimately, an excavator was used to demolish what remained of the house built in 1920 due to structural instability. Although the residence itself was old and had been unoccupied for several years, the value of the parcel lies in the vast 46-acre expanse of waterfront property. The property is currently listed for sale for around $3.5 million. The most recent assessment of the property listed the value of the land at $1.2 million and the value of the nearly 2,700-square-foot house at just over $31,000.

The exact cause of the fire remains under investigation by the Fire Marshal’s Office this week. Two firefighters sustained minor injuries during the fire. Anyone with additional information is encouraged to contact the Fire Marshal’s Office at 410-632-5666.