Firefighter suffers minor injury in downtown fire; Blaze not suspicious authorities say

A back porch appeared to be the most heavily damaged portion of the house, which is set just across from Allan Park. Staff/Andrew Knapp

A firefighter suffered a minor injury Tuesday morning while working inside a downtown Charleston house that had been gutted by fire.

The fireman was doing “overhaul” work, or ripping out interior ceilings and walls to root out lingering fire, inside the two-story structure at 364 Ashley Avenue when debris fell on him, according to Mark Ruppel, spokesman for the Charleston Fire Department.

He complained of back pain and was transported to Medical University Hospital, where he was later released, Ruppel said.

The cause of the blaze, which was reported about 1:20 a.m., was still under investigation, but Ruppel said preliminary interviews with residents raised no suspicion.

“There’s no reason to think it’s suspicious,” Ruppel said. “The fire started inside, not outside.”

The five people inside escaped unharmed, and the American Red Cross provided them with housing and financial assistance, according to Nancy Olson, a spokeswoman for the Lowcountry chapter.

A family member said the residents were sleeping when one of them smelled smoke. They got out “just in time,” said the man, who added that the home had been owned by the family for a long time. He declined to give his name.

A back porch appeared to be the most heavily damaged portion of the house, which is set just across from Allan Park. A fuel tank, a Nike shoe and a striped shirt were strewn about in the backyard, along with charred metal and wood. Ruppel could not immediately say where the flames ignited, however.

Neighboring homes were not damaged.

Theblaze has some of the same characteristics ofprevious fires that were intentionally set: It likely began early in the morningin an area that has seen as many as 85 suspicious fires since 2002, according to aPost and Courier analysis. Many of these fires also begin in the spring after afew months of arson inactivity, the newspaper’s analysis revealed.

But Ruppelrepeated that this morning’s blaze is“not suspicious at all.”

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Andrew Knapp is editor of the quick response team, which covers crime, courts and breaking news. He previously worked as a reporter and copy editor at Florida Today, Newsday and Bangor (Maine) Daily News. He enjoys golf, weather and fatherhood.