Crime & Public Safety

Child may have started fire that destroyed grandparents’ Beaufort Co. home, report says

As the rest of Beaufort County was preparing for Hurricane Dorian last week, one family was coming to terms with everything lost in a fire that a 5-year-old may have inadvertently started.

“We have to start back all over,” said Stephanie Legree, the homeowner and child’s grandmother.

Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office deputies and the Lady’s Island -St. Helena Fire Department responded to the White Sands Circle home on St. Helena about 3:30 p.m. Sept. 1, a police report says.

The child told police he was playing with a lighter in his bedroom when he caught his mattress on fire, a report says, though fire officials say they are still investigating the fire’s cause.

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Child possibly started fire destroyed St. Helena home, a Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office report says.

Legree, who has custody of two grandchildren because their mother died, said investigators never found a lighter, and an electrical malfunction hasn’t been ruled out as a cause.

“It happened so fast,” she said.

The report says Legree’s husband smelled smoke while sitting in the living room. He ran to the child’s room to find it fully engulfed in flames.

The man grabbed both grandchildren and took them outside, the report says. He then went back inside to get Legree’s purse and cellphone.

The home was a total loss, the police report says.

Legree said a construction crew is in the process of clearing the debris. She said she is staying with her daughter as she figures out the next steps.