Dryer to blame for restaurant owner's house fire

JAMES ISLAND, SC (WCSC) - Authorities say a fire at a former state lawmaker's home on Bowen's Island was caused by towels or rags that were left in a clothes dryer.

Fire officials say the Wednesday afternoon fire at Robert Barber's home suffered heavy damage and killed the family dog.

It didn't take long for firefighters and neighbors to realize it was Barber's house on fire on Bowen's Island Road.

The same Robert Barber whose Bowen's Island restaurant was destroyed by fire in 2006 and then rebuilt.

"I really believe he might be the nicest person I've ever met in my life," said neighbor Pat Howard.

Howard says Barber was out of town on vacation in Canada when the fire broke out. At first, Howard thought the smoke was coming from a wildfire in Georgia.

"And then I saw it was too much smoke and I could smell it from inside the house and ran out," Howard says.

There was no shortage of volunteers available to hand out water to the weary firefighters.

"They're hot, they're thirsty. I've got to help them. They're all like my little brothers," said volunteer Sandy Townsend.

"Guys can fall out real quick. They're wearing 50 pounds of turnout gear to protect us from the heat of the fire and it just makes it worse with the heat of the day," said James Island Fire Chief Chris Seabolt.

The chief says the fire was under control in about 20 minutes and the cause is unknown. He says renovations were being done to the home.

Barber's friends feel for him and say they will be around to help, just like they did after his restaurant burned. Chief Seabolt says between 30 and 40 percent of Barber's house was lost in the fire.

He says the department plans ahead for fires on narrow roads like Bowen's Island. The chief says additional hydrants were installed on the road after the restaurant fire.

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