St. George, South Carolina Fire

Shortly after midnight on September 11th, The St. George Fire Department was notified of smoke coming from a building in the downtown business district located on US Hwy. 15 (Parler Ave).

First arriving units found heavy smoke conditions and requested mutual aid from several surrounding fire departments, as well as a ladder truck from Colleton County.

Colleton County Fire-Rescue was requested for mutual aid at 12:56am Sunday morning. Ladder 1907 was dispatched as well as two other pieces of equipment, eight firefighters and two supervisors as a support crew for the Ladder Operations.

Colleton units arrived approximately 20 minutes later.

Heavy fire conditions were present in a one story pharmacy located in the middle of the block.

Fire was beginning to spread to an adjacent two story building on the north side of the fire building and threatening a third building to the south, a newly renovated theater.

The two- story building housed a Law Office upstairs and a second pharmacy on the first floor.

The downtown buildings are over a 100 years old and share support walls in some cases. It created dangerous conditions and provided for rapid spread of the fire. About four other fire departments from Dorchester County were also on scene by this time, with units operating on the main street and the in the alley.

Within ten minutes, conditions deteriorated. Heavy fire had spread to the second story Law Offices on the north side of the initial fire building. Interior crews were driven out of the building due to the tremendous heat.

Firefighters were forced to scurry down ladders just ahead of the roof failure, which collapsed into the first floor drug store located on the street level. Apparatus operating near the fire buildings had to be moved to a safe distance.

The IC radioed for additional resources. Further equipment and manpower was requested from other Dorchester County departments.

Colleton County dispatched six additional stations and resources were brought in from two additional neighboring counties of Orangeburg and Charleston.

Shortly thereafter, a portion of the two story Law Office collapsed into the street. By this time Colleton County's and The Town of Summerville's Ladders were operating and making headway on the fire.

Ground crews at the front and rear of the buildings continued exterior attacks with multiple large hand lines. Interior crews were sent into the fourth building north of the initial fire building and were able to prevent any further spread of the fire. Crews on the south end kept the fire from spreading into the theater.

A total of 14 fire departments and over 110 firefighters from Dorchester, Orangeburg, Charleston and Colleton Counties responded to the incident. Firefighters were able to stop the spread of the fire and save most of the city block. Only minor injuries were reported and one firefighter was transported to the hospital for evaluation due to being struck by falling debris.

The St George Fire Chief, Malcolm Burns, did a great job directing the operation and anticipating the fire's movement. All the departments operated well together. There were multiple teams working at the fire scene, a tanker shuttle and several relay pumping operations were run simultaneously.

The water department was able to boost pressure on water lines to provide additional capacity to the units. The cooperative effort showed in the successful operation.

The newly renovated community theater was saved with only minor smoke and heat damage.