Cannon Street fire labeled 'suspicious'

(WCIV/Jon Bruce)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- A downtown fire has now been labeled suspicious.

Fire officials confirm that a blaze at 54 Cannon Street started on the first floor porch of the subdivided home. They say it then spread to the second floor porch just after 4:30a.m.

A resident of one of the units described feeling "petrifying fear" at the sight of the flames.

Residents say as many as four people and a dog were inside the home at the time of the fire.

Everyone escaped the blaze. One resident says a pet dog was thrown to safety from the second floor. The dog was not hurt.

Investigators are not yet certain what started the fire.

There have been a series of downtown porch fires over the past few months. It has not been determined if those fires were deliberately set though, nor do we know if this fire is related.

"The fire is deemed suspicious just due to the origin," said Charleston Fire Department spokesman Mark Ruppel. "

"It's very concerning, as is any fire in downtown," Ruppel said. "We are asking residents of the city to please be vigilant to please leave porch lights on. Please report anything at all you think may be suspicious."

Ruppel said the use of smoke detectors played a role in everyone's ability to make it out of the home safely.

"A smoke alarm actually alerted a resident on the second floor to the fire and he was able to get out safely," Ruppel said. "Neighbors helped alert the resident on the first floor."

The Red Cross was on the scene Thursday morning and provided the residents of the home, who were all students, financial assistance to help replace the food lost in the fire. They also gave the students comfort kits filled with personal emergency supplies.

Financial assistance was provided to one of the students for lost clothing.

The fire was the fifth suspicious blaze in a month in Charleston and the 57th since 2003.

Authorities say the fires are being set during the early morning hours generally on couches and furniture on the porches of homes in the downtown area. They have occurred in an area with a lot of homes with apartments occupied by college students. Riley urged residents to report any suspicious activity.