213 East bay fire started in Light, officials say

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- The fire that destroyed four downtown Charleston businesses in April started in a storage room on the second floor, fire officials said Tuesday afternoon.

According to Charleston Fire Department investigators, the fire started in a back room of Light, one of the businesses destroyed in the fire, and spread because the building lacked fire alarms and a sprinkler system.

Because of the extensive damage done to the building along with the roof collapse, officials have not been able to find the definite cause of the fire, officials said Tuesday.

Fire officials said the call came in around 1 a.m. for the fire at 213 East Bay St. Officials said four buildings were damaged by the fire, including popular hangouts Light, the Speak Easy, The Brick and Squeeze. There was some heat damage to adjacent buildings, but no real fire damage.{}

Around 3 a.m. the streets were filled with displaced residents and employees of the businesses who then gathered on the steps of the Customs House, hugging and comforting each other.

The fire was so big, it could be seen from the Ravenel Bridge.

Firefighters had made it to the second floor before having to pull out of the building because of a partial roof collapse, Charleston Fire Department officials said. Crews have not re-entered the building as of 6:15 a.m. and believe the building may be structurally unsound, officials said.{}

In the wake of the fire, the businesses shut down by the fire have held fundraisers for the employees and been invited into other area businesses to work.

Employees of the four businesses said it could be a year before they reopen.