HANAHAN — Unattended cooking was the likely cause of a fire that destroyed a six-unit apartment building early Saturday, Hanahan Fire Chief Bo Bowers said.
Firefighters were dispatched at 10:58 p.m. to a reported fire at 5954 Willard Drive, Bowers said.
The first units to arrive were police officers, who reported that two of the units were ablaze, with flames coming through the roof, Bowers said.
Residents of those units were outside when firefighters got on the scene, the chief said.
“They told me they were cooking and they went upstairs for a while. When they came back down, the fire had gotten into a cabinet above the stove.”
Flames spread from the area above the stove and up into a common attic that was shared by all six units, Bowers said.
The North Charleston Fire Department sent units in response to a request for mutual aid.
Tommy Broach Jr., the building’s property manager, was at his home Friday night in the Park Circle area when he received a phone call and a text message that contained a picture of the flames on Willard Drive.
His first reaction, he said: “Jesus Christ.”
“It’s just fortunate that nobody was hurt,” Broach said. “Material things can be replaced.”
Broach said the fire should serve as a reminder for people to protect themselves by purchasing renter’s insurance. He wouldn’t say whether the displaced residents were insured or whether insurance was a requirement to live in the building.
Chelsea Carroll, a 23-year-old woman who lives in a building across the street from where the fire occurred, recalled seeing a ball of flames and fire trucks file into the community minutes afterward.
She said she didn’t realize until Friday night that the road she calls home doesn’t contain a fire hydrant. Crews attached a hose from a hydrant on a neighboring street she said. She said she suspected a closer hydrant would have saved firefighters time, potentially sparing some of the units.
“They’re just lucky they got everyone out. I wouldn’t have moved on this street if I realized there wasn’t a hydrant here,” she said.
Bowers confirmed that crews had to go around the block to reach a hydrant for supply. But they used water from the supply tanks on their trucks the entire time, he said.
Firefighters evacuated the units but they were unable to attack the blaze from the interior of the building because the roof and a rear wall were starting to collapse, Bowers said. They set up two aerial ladders with high-volume hoses and dumped thousands of gallons of water on the blaze.
Ten people were left homeless, according to the American Red Cross.
Disaster-trained Red Cross volunteers responded and provided financial assistance for food, clothing, and temporary lodging, as well as comfort kits containing personal hygiene items, and referrals to partner agencies to help with the families’ long-term recovery, the Red Cross said.
Since Thursday, Red Cross volunteers have assisted 46 fire victims in the Charleston area, the release said.
Last year, the Palmetto South Carolina Region of the Red Cross assisted more than 7,000 individuals affected by disaster. Since January 1, 2015, in the Lowcountry alone, the Red Cross has assisted more than 400 fire victims.
To help people who have been affected by home fires, call 843-764-2323 or visit www.redcross.org/lowcountrysc