A pot left unattended on a stove started a fire Friday morning that left a St. Helena Island family homeless and sent a 37-year-old mother of five to the hospital with potentially life-threatening injuries, authorities say.
The woman, later identified as Florence Bradley, was the only one home when the fire started about 8:45 a.m. All of her children were at school, said Lee Levesque, spokesman for the Lady's Island-St. Helena Fire District.
Bradley was able to escape and ran to a neighbor's house for help, Levesque said.
A passer-by also noticed smoke coming from the green one-story home near the intersection of Saxonville and Club Bridge roads.
Courtney Wilson, Bradley's sister, said Bradley's children will live with her while their mother recuperates.
"It's a lot to take in," Wilson said of the fire. "All of my focus right now is on making sure my nieces and nephews are taken care of." She declined to give the children's ages.
Bradley was taken to Beaufort Memorial Hospital with potentially life-threatening injuries related to smoke inhalation, Levesque said. She was listed in fair condition at Beaufort Memorial Hospital before being transferred Friday afternoon to the Augusta Burn Center in Georgia for additional treatment, according to a hospital spokeswoman.
The blaze started in the kitchen and quickly spread throughout the three-bedroom, 1,000-square-foot home. It took more than 35 firefighters about 20 minutes to extinguish the blaze but not before the fire gutted the interior, Levesque said.
Given the size of the home and how quickly the fire spread, it could have been disastrous had the children been home, Levesque said.
"One of the biggest things that we're grateful for, if we're grateful for anything, is that there weren't more occupants home when the fire started," he said, pointing out that the home did not have a working smoke detector.
The Red Cross is giving the family money to purchase clothes and food, said Gordon Robertson, agency spokesman.