Arson probably caused a fire that destroyed a cart barn at a Hilton Head Plantation golf club Monday, according to the Town of Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue Division.
Firefighters and Beaufort County sheriff's deputies responded to a fire alarm at the private Bear Creek course inside the gated community just before 5:30 a.m.
The fire consumed the cart barn and damaged a storage area. The clubhouse and pro shop were not damaged, town Fire Marshal Joheida Fister said.
A utility cart with its lights on was found near the scene and appeared to have been used to break through a gate at the maintenance yard, according to the Sheriff's Office.
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The club was not open, and no employees were there when the fire broke out, according to the Sheriff's Office, which is investigating the fire. Fister could not say specifically how the fire started.
The fire originated in the cart barn and spread to the attic of the locker rooms and golf-bag storage area, according to a Fire & Rescue Division news release. Firefighters stopped the fire before it damaged the locker rooms and offices, according to the release.
The cart barn, which housed 52 golf carts at the time of the fire, is considered a total loss; the cost of the damage was not immediately available.
Firefighters had the fire under control within a half-hour, according to Fister.
The golf course was closed for the day because of the fire, and it might be closed today as well, Bear Creek head golf professional Brett Heisler said.
"The course was undamaged and is in great shape," Heisler said. "We're hoping to get open as soon as possible. We'll start with walking only and arrange for golf cart rentals later this week. The clubhouse and pro shop are fully operational, fortunately."
Hilton Head Plantation general manager Peter Kristian said he heard what sounded like pine cones hitting his roof at about 5 a.m. His living room windows look out onto the course's No. 7 fairway, about 200 yards from the cart barn.
"I turned on the outside lights and looked out the window and saw a wall of flames into the tree canopy," Kristian said Monday afternoon.
Anyone with information about the fire can contact Crimestoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC (274-6372) or text the word TIPSC with a message to CRIMES (274637).
Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/ProtectServeBft.