Police join investigation into massive downtown fire

Fire Marshal Mike Julazadeh (left) investigates the blaze. (Natalie Caula/WCIV)

By Natalie

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - Piles of rubble is all that's left of the corner home on Rutledge Avenue and Bogard Street in downtown Charleston.

The house caught fire around 3:45 a.m. Thursday, according to Charleston Fire Department officials. Living next door, Drew Sams says he woke up and saw the flames when he woke up his roommates and they escaped their house, which had also caught fire.

"The plastic started to melt, didn't really have time to think," Sams said.

One of those roommates, Fabian Wright says the fire was intense as flames covered the corner home and started to attack his.

"I could see through our windows the flames from the next house and our windows started to shatter and the blinds were starting to melt a little," Wright said.

Fire officials say no one was injured in the blaze that burned three structures, seven cars and one motorcycle.

Joint Investigation

On Thursday afternoon Charleston Fire Marshal Mike Julazadeh walked around the back of the home trying to decipher any clues, with the help of a Charleston Police investigator. It took a while for them to even get close to the rubble since SCE&G had to finish shutting down the gas line.

"It didn't have valves so they actually had to bring equipment out here and dig the street in order to shut down the gas line," Julazadeh said.

The road work kept Rutledge Avenue shut down for several hours. A collapsing wall kept Bogard Street closed until around 5 p.m.

By day's end on Thursday, Julazadeh says they didn't have a cause and they are still investigating.

"We've launched a joint fire investigation team (Charleston Fire Dept. and Charleston Police Dept.)," Julazadeh said.

The marshal says those inside the home that caught fire tell him they first saw flames on the porch -- a reminder of fires that started in other downtown homes in the past several years -- by the hands of a mystery serial arsonist.

Julazadeh said they are in the starting stages of an investigation and can't rule anything out. He said there have been a couple undetermined fires in the area in the last several months.

"We are continuing to look at those fires to see if they are linked or connected," he said.

Anyone who was in the area of Rutledge Avenue and Bogard Street between 3:15-3:45 a.m. Thursday, should contact the Fire Marshal's Office with any information. You can reach them at (843) 724-3429.


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