By Stacy Jacobsonsjacobson@abcnews4.com
GEORGETOWN, S.C. (WCIV) - From the ashes of the Front Street Fire in Georgetown, tales of hope and friendship are starting to emerge, including the story of an artist who saved his elderly neighbor.
Among the victims of the Front Street fire in Georgetown was an artist who not only lost his home but his entire livelihood - but he's being labeled a hero. John Walters' apartment used to sit where there is now only ash and rubble. While he was running for safety early Wednesday morning, he did what some people would say is heroic.
In those pre-dawn hours, Walters rushed to get out of his apartment when he realized the fire was much worse than he imagined.
"The smoke was just solid black. You couldn't see the hand in front of your face," he said.
Walters met his elderly neighbor in the stairwell, grabbed her hand and helped her find her way through the thick smoke.
"They were probably 30 seconds from the smoke being too much. They would've been done," said Wil Brawley, whose mother was displaced by the fire.
Brawley's mother is OK, but Walters lost everything. His apartment is gone; what little remains is a charred mess. His dog, Jake, did not make it out of the fire.
"It's just heartbreaking. Jake is like losing a child," said Walters.
His livelihood - his artwork - has disintegrated.
"All my supplies, the ability to create art - brushes, paints, tables, canvases - all that's gone," he said.
But just as it's a new day for Georgetown and the victims of the fire, there is also one for Walters, too. By some twist of fate or luck or divinity, one of his paintings survived the fire. And there's a buyer, too.
"I'm buying this painting because it's John's last piece of art. It's the only piece that was saved. He saved my mom's life in this fire," said Brawley.
Brawley says he and his mom will cherish the artwork in his mom's new home, wherever that may be. As for Walters, it's the first step in a long process, but he vows that there will be many more paintings to come.
Gov. Nikki Haley is asking everyone from around the state to help the people of Georgetown. There is a Front Street Fire Fund that can be added to at any First Citizens Bank or by calling 843-546-8591.
Officials at the bank on Front Street said they had already raised $2,000 in donations.