Fire on the Beach

Recovering the Lost Story of Richard Etheridge
and the Pea Island Lifesavers

From the Civil War to the Turn of the Century, this is the true-life story of the original Coast Guard and one crew of African-American heroes who fought storms and saved lives off North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

Fire on the Beach recovers a lost gem of American history. It tells the story of the U.S. Life-Saving Service, formed in 1871 to assure the safe passage of American and international shipping and to save lives and salvage cargo. A century ago, the adventures of the now-forgotten “surfmen” who, in crews of seven, bore the brunt of this dangerous but vital duty filled the pages of popular reading material, from Harper’s to the Baltimore Sun and New York Herald. Station 17, located on the desolate beaches of Pea Island, North Carolina, housed one such unit, and Richard Etheridge—the only black man to lead a lifesaving crew—was its captain.
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BET Television Clip on Pea Island Surfmen

BET Clip StillWatch Video

Richard Etheridge,
“A Man among the Men”

Richard EtheridgeView Slideshow

“Social history at its readable best.”
The Memphis Flyer

Fire on the Beach is … an enthralling book, the best history lesson I’ve received in years, but it reads like an adventure, with language both clear and poetic. I enjoyed every minute of it.”
Sheri Reynolds, author of The Rapture of Canaan

“One of the Best Books of 2001″
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Fire on the Beach adds significantly to our understanding of the many essential ways in which African Americans have served their country.”
The Washington Post Sunday Book Review

A New Yorker Notable Selection