Crime & Public Safety

‘Devastating fires’ displace multiple Beaufort County families in less than 2 weeks

More than a dozen northern Beaufort County residents were displaced from their homes after “a string of devastating fires” in the past two weeks, according to Burton Fire District officials.

On Sept. 18, a family of seven was displaced after a house fire on Laurel Street East.

Four days later another family — this time of five — was forced out of its home on Garret Smalls Road.

The latest fire occurred Sunday, burning the roof off a home on Shanklin Road where two men were rescued.

Each fire left one person injured, Burton Fire District Capt. Dan Byrne said.

Although Burton has the most fires and most fire-related fatalities of all the districts in Beaufort County, it’s unusual for so many fires to happen so close together and for all of them to displace families and cause injuries, Byrne said.

“It’s devastating,” he said, “especially for us because we know how it could have been prevented or kept in check.”

The two earlier fires were caused by unattended cooking; the most recent fire was an electrical issue, the news release from the department said.

Unattended cooking is the leading cause of fires in the country, state and county, Byrne said.

“We like to say a watched pot never burns,” he said. “Fires don’t just happen. They can be controlled. They can be prevented. The trouble is the bystanders on the scene thinking it’ll never happen to them.”

Roughly three out of five fire deaths happen in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Byrne said most departments will give residents smoke alarms — and install them for free.

“It’s tough to see these fires over and over and over again,” he said. “As a department, we’re really motivated to get out there and teach people what we know” about fires and fire prevention.

Lady’s Island-St. Helena Fire District has responded to six structure fires in the past six weeks, district spokesperson Scott Harris said. One of the fires resulted in a family being displaced.

The City of Beaufort/Town of Port Royal Fire Department has not had any families displaced in the last month, Chief Reece Bertholf said.

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Lana Ferguson has reported on a smorgasbord of news for The Island Packet & Beaufort Gazette since June 2018. Before coming to the Lowcountry, she worked for publications in her home state of Virginia and graduated from the University of Mississippi, where she was editor of the college’s daily newspaper.
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