Colleton County, South Carolina Firefighters Battle Multi-Structure, Woods Fire

At 1626 hours on April 6, 2005 the Colleton County Fire-Rescue responded to a reported house fire near the end of Cottonwood Lane, north of Walterboro. The caller advised there were explosions heard coming from the burning building. The caller was across a four-acre field from the burning structure and did not realize several buildings were on fire.

Engine 1901 arrived six minutes later, to find two fully involved structures, two storage buildings on fire, a burning pickup truck and rapidly moving 6-acre woods fires. Driven by high winds, the field and woods fire was already crowning and quickly approaching a second doublewide mobile home on the north side of the field. Engine 1901 reported flames as high as 60 feet in the air. Firefighter-EMTI Chuck Moyer, Engine 1901's driver, directed Tanker 1904 to the north side of the fire to protect exposures. Engine 1901 proceeded to the south side of the fire and used the deck gun to begin working on the structures and woods fire. A second alarm was requested at 1635 for additional tankers, manpower and a tractor from the Forestry Commission. A third alarm was requested at 1643 for two additional county engines, two brush trucks and a mutual aid engine from the City of Walterboro. A second tractor was requested from the Forestry Commission and a plane from the Sheriff's Office to assist with surveillance.

Chief McRoy and Assistant Chief Greene established a Command Post on the north side of the fire. A second Command Post was established on the south side of the incident to manage firefighting operations in that sector. Captain Richard Sheffield staffed the second Command Post. North end firefighters dug in and aggressively confronted the fast moving flames as they bore down on the doublewide mobile home. The two adult occupants and an infant, staying in the residence were told to evacuate the structure. Flames burned to within six feet of Tanker 1904 as firefighters had to protect their own apparatus from the flames. Using a booster line and a 1-3/4 handline, firefighters were able to stop the forward movement of the fire and protect the mobile home. The winds caused the fire with four to six foot flames, to jump a dirt road, as it continued north around the rear of the mobile home.

As they arrived, additional engines were placed around the east perimeter of the fire, stopping the eastward advance as it approached several more mobile homes. Two engines and two tankers were directed to cover a nearby subdivision and a second residential area on the south and north sides of the fire. The south side operation was dealing with a fully involved doublewide mobile home and a 30 by 40 foot shop. The roof on both structures had already collapsed. Two storage buildings, a camper and a pickup truck were also on fire. The narrow driveway presented access problems for the large apparatus. Tankers rotated in to the scene due to the tight space.

Firefighters used four 1-3/4 handlines, deck gun, three booster reels and Class