Early morning fire displaces residents at downtown Charleston apartment building

Source: Mary Geer Kirkland


CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- An early morning fire on Sunday forced people from their homes on one downtown Charleston street. A dozen people were displaced as a result of the fire.

According to Charleston Fire Department Marshal Mike Julazadeh, crews responded to Beaufain and Gadsden streets around 3:30 a.m. Sunday for a reported fire at an historic home that had been converted to apartments.

When crews arrived, they found a three-story apartment building partially involved and worked to control the fire and evacuate residents.

The fire had already progressed into the void spaces and spread between all three floors. Due to rapidly deteriorating conditions, emergency personnel were evacuated from the building and switched to a defensive operation. The roof of the structure subsequently collapsed along with a section of the North side of the building.

One resident had a minor burn, but everyone else escaped without injury, Julazadeh said.

"First arriving crews quickly evaluated the situation and employed an action plan based on Standard Operating Procedures and initiated an interior fire attack" said Deputy Chief of Operations John Tippett. "As the conditions within the building deteriorated, good judgment and training prevailed, and crews safely evacuated the structure without injury."

Fire officials said the failure of the roof structure has made the extinguishment effort more difficult as the collapsed roof has created concealed pockets of fire that had to be extinguished throughout the day.

"Fire personnel worked quickly to contain the fire to the primary building and evacuated two adjacent apartments," said Fire Marshal Mike Julazadeh. "The rapid response and coordinated actions of the fire department contained the damage to one building. At this time, fire investigators are suspending the onsite investigation due to structural and safety concerns."

Investigators have not started searching for a cause to the fire yet. The building's structural integrity will have to be tested before the investigation team will be allowed to enter.

Fire crews will remain on scene through Monday morning conducting a fire watch. The Red Cross is working with the displaced residents.