Tropical Storm Ophelia brought several feet of storm surge to some parts of the Chesapeake Bay, causing damage to buildings in some places and making roads impassable in others.
When a house became engulfed in flames Sunday morning amid the floodwaters in low-lying Taylors Island, Maryland, volunteer firefighters really had their work cut out for them.
The home that caught fire was in a remote area on Hoopertown Road in Taylors Island, Dorchester County. Set on a remote back road, the house was fully ablaze before a passerby noticed it and called 911 before 11 a.m. Sunday. Thankfully the house wasn’t occupied, and hasn’t been for years. Reaching the site of the fire turned out to be a challenge.
Dorchester County, on Maryland’s lower Eastern Shore, is known as “one of the state’s most threatened coastal areas, where planning for large storms and related hazards has become critically important,” Preservation Maryland notes on its website.
At Bishops Head in Dorchester County, just south of Taylors and Hoopers islands, the National Weather Center Wakefield, Virginia, reported a peak of 4.1 feet of tidal flooding during Tropical Storm Ophelia. That amount of storm surge falls just shy of National Weather Service’s threshold for “major flooding”.
To reach the Hoopertown Road fire, Taylors Island Volunteer Fire Company’s tanker had to drive through high water. Photos taken by Mike Geleta show firefighters in waders standing in water up to their knees as they extinguished the fire.
Taylors Island VFC had help from volunteer fire companies in Madison, Church Creek and the Neck District. While flooding made navigating the fire scene difficult, the firefighters were able to use it to their advantage in the form of an unlimited water supply.
A post on the Taylors Island Maryland community Facebook page explains how a Madison VFD drafted water from the flooded roadway, feeding Taylors Island VFD’s tanker. With this solution, crews were able to bring the fire under control in 45 minutes.
Afterwards, the Taylors Island VFD tanker had to be flushed of saltwater and refilled with fresh water from a hydrant back in Cambridge.
The Office of the Maryland State Fire Marshal is investigating the fire, which caused $100,000 in damage to the two-story, wood frame house. Anyone with information about this fire is asked to contact Deputy State Fire Marshals at 410-713-3780.
-Meg Walburn Viviano