Fire damage could lead to building demolition at 213 East Bay

Roof of 213 East Bay Street

By Eric

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- At first glance from the outside, the damage to the four businesses at 213 East Bay Street doesn't look that bad. But it only takes a look inside a window -- or a view from above --{} to realize how bad it is.

Witnesses said the flames rose as high as 20 to 30 feet from the top of the downtown building, around 1 a.m. Tuesday. The 911 call for help came from inside Squeeze Bar.

As smoke filled the air, those inside were told to get out.

"Leave the building and close the doors behind you, and do not try to put the fire out, and do not carry out anything that it is on fire," a 911 dispatcher instructed the caller.

"Nobody sees the fire, it's weird, it's coming from the top it looks like," the caller said in return.

With the light of day came the reality. The roof of 213 East Bay, or rather what was left of it, had caved in to the building's second floor.

Wednesday, as firefighters assessed the damage, they were faced with deciding if the building can be saved. Talk of knocking it down will have to be considered, but firefighters have not gone back inside since midday Tuesday, out of caution.

"We will work with insurance investigators to determine the best method to stabilize and determine if the investigation should continue," said Charleston Fire Marshal, Mike Julazadeh. "There is a tentative meeting tomorrow (Thursday) to review the scene."

Matthew Arout lives next door to where the fire was, because of slight water damage he was kept out of his home for the night, a small price to pay for his safety.

"We got really lucky this happened on a Monday night and not bridge run weekend," said Arout. "This would've been a totally different, scarier story."

Arout said the consequences could have been much worse. He thought they would be when he first saw the fire.

"You knew the firemen were behind the building and there's a parking deck, and you knew that's where the fire was really going, that's where it picked up more."

Charleston fire officials said Wednesday it could be days, even weeks, before a cause for the fire is determined.