Several Displaced After Charleston Apartment Fire

JACK EVANS, Post & Courier

Charleston City firefighters are monitoring 48 Smith Street after a blaze in the house in downtown Charleston.

The four-apartment house fire is was contained as of 6 p.m., but the fire had spread throughout the structure when firefighters arrived at 3:20 p.m. according to Interim Deputy Chief John Tippett. 

Tippett says two firefighters were transported to hospital for heat-related injuries. The heat index Friday was 101.

Tippett said one woman went back into the house to retrieve her cat, Banjo, and had to be transported to a hospital for treatment of a minor injury. "We don't advise people do that," he said.

Upstairs resident Jack Talton was in the house when the fire started. He noticed what he thought was dust outside his window, when suddenly his downstairs neighbor frantically called him and told him to get out immediately because there was a fire.

He grabbed his phone and left, but he was barefoot. Talton goes to the University of North Carolina but he's living in Charleston for the summer. 

"It's an old house. Underneath the porch there's always been a bunch of stuff, miscellaneous things that look like they've been collected over the years," he said. That's where the fire was located.  

First floor residents Brian Sigman and David Close saw the fire coming from under the porch. They tried to put it out with a water hose while they called 911. They said it was small to start with. 

Sigman and Close also had a friend from the U.K., Conner Reffell, who is supposed to fly back to his country on Monday but he may be here longer - his passport was in the house. 

The fire was large enough that motorists could see it and smell the smoke on the Arthur Ravenel Bridge. Firefighters were concerned about it spreading to other buildings. The building where the fire started shares a wall with another house, according to fire officials.

At 6 p.m. Tippett said, "We're probably going to be here another 3 to 4 hours at least. We're evaluating the structure for collapse potential."

It was a two-alarm fire with a third staging to help.

Mayor John Tecklenburg commended "the incredible bravery of the Charleston Fire Department."

"We should all be proud of them and remember every day they are on call for us," Tecklenburg said.

"We have a public safety team in this city that is second-to-none," says Charleston Council member Michael Seekings who lives next door.

"This is an old, old part of the city - today's structure was a wood structure, and you know how fast they go up."

Another neighbor, Episcopal Bishop of South Carolina Mark Lawrence, said everyone in his home, including dog Miko and cat Puma, got out unharmed. He commended the quick response time by fire crews.

The house is listed on as a multi-family dwelling with an estimated value of $1.7 million. It has 12,610 square feet and is located within the city's National Register Historic District.

While the home isn't mentioned specifically in Jonathan Poston's "The Buildings of Charleston," it was built next to several large antebellum homes that were.

Talton, missing his wallet, keys and phone charger, hoped to at least find some flip flops.

Sigman wasn't sure what he would do next, either, he said, though he had one idea: "Go to the bar?"

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