Residents question response time after lightning strike fire

By Stacy

CAINHOY, S.C. (WCIV) -- As Rick Ashman walked through his house Tuesday, he saw his life turned to rubble and shattered glass.

"The whole third floor was wiped out. I think it's going to have to be gutted," he said.

Ashman lives next door to the Cainhoy town home that caught fire late Monday night. The owner of that town home wasn't there. But at the time, Ashman and his daughter were home. He said he was watching a football game when his daughter called for him.

"She said, 'I think I smell smoke.' So I go up in to the third floor and there it was," he said. "Had that been stopped early enough, it wouldn't have come over here."

The fire spread so much into his unit it even burned a hole through the firewall. After the fire, he could see through the wall to his next door neighbor's home.

The Charleston Fire Department protects the neighborhood between Mount Pleasant and Daniel Island. City officials said fire trucks arrived 14 minutes after receiving the 911 call. But Ashman and his neighbors said it took much longer.

"It took about 30 to 40 minutes for the fire department to show up," Ashman said.

"It was about 20 minutes to half an hour," Pattie O'Reilly said.

Neighbors said the Clements Ferry area was growing, and that's becoming an issue.

"There are more townhouses going up," said Wayne Edwards, who has lived in the Cain Crossing neighborhood for two years. "The area is getting larger with more people moving in. There are still townhouses under construction. That means we're going to have more people. And we're not out of the way out here like we used to be."

Mayor Riley released a statement Tuesday saying the city is building a new firehouse near Cainhoy. It was in the design stage and working with architects, the statement said.

But for Ashman, that was too late.

"Why was I left unprotected last night?" he asked.

Ashman also wanted to know why Mount Pleasant fire crews did not respond, instead of the city. Mount Pleasant has a station around four miles away in Dunes West.

City officials said Mount Pleasant does not participate in the county's automatic aide program. Thus, they would've had to call Mount Pleasant to respond to the Cain Crossing fire.

In an email, Charleston Fire spokesman Mike Julazadeh said that would've been "a longer process and their response would likely have been equivalent to ours."