Two preventable fires Thursday morning left a family of five homeless and sent Beaufort-Port Royal firefighters scrambling from one scene to another.
The first, in the 400 block of Meritta Avenue, occurred just before 7 a.m. The homeowner attempted to burn debris in a fireplace from renovations that were not authorized by the city. The flames got out of control, according to firefighters. Although the owner had slept there Wednesday night, he was not living in the three-bedroom home, which he intended to rent out.
The building was very old, fire Capt. John Robinson said, and it looked as though the fireplace had not been repaired by a professional. The bricks and mortar had deteriorated, allowing flames to escape the chimney. Damage was confined to the floor and area around the chimney.
The second fire was reported at 9:11 a.m. at the Lafayette Squares Apartments on Lafayette Street. A pot left on the stove caught fire, according to firefighters. A woman attempting to douse the grease fire with water instead spread flames around the kitchen.
Her husband and their three children were not home. Firefighters rescued two dogs that were checked for smoke inhalation by Beaufort County EMS. Both dogs were fine.
The Palmetto Chapter of the American Red Cross assisted at the scene and is providing temporary lodging for the family, according to agency spokeswoman Nancy Olson.
The Burton Fire District and the Beaufort Police Department also responded.
Kitchen fires are one of the most common residential fires, fire officials say, and people should burn only firewood in fireplaces.
"Both fires that happened today were preventable," Robinson said, "and a small mistake turns into a big mistake for the homeowner."
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufort.