Unique challenges fighting fires in downtown Charleston

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Old construction, closely built buildings, and crowded streets, all among the challenges when fighting fires on the peninsula. Firefighters go through specialized training tailored just for the downtown area.

"The peninsula is a very unique area, full of historic buildings dating back to the 1700s for some of them. Each of those has unique challenges in construction, how close they are together and how much they mean to the tourists coming to visit," Deputy Chief John Tippett said.

The men and women sworn to protect property and people from fires in downtown Charleston, train everyday to prepare, and they get to know the area.

"They get out and walk the streets. They visit all the back alleys. They become familiar with the streets," Tippet said.

Charleston fire department crews must deal with many old buildings clustered close together. Tippet says all firefighters practice the risk assessment approach, meaning they determine the best way to battle the blaze. Then there is a three line fire attack, meaning there is a main line and secondary line pumping water onto the fire and a third line attacking from above.

Tippet says these techniques have helped to keep losses to a minimum. Downtown restaurants say being in such close proximity, they know there is a certain fire risk, but they hope for the best and do what they can to protect themselves and customers.

"These are all old buildings. They're brick, but you never know what is going to happen so we do have a sprinkler system, fire extinguisher, get our hoods maintained to make sure there's not grease buildup," Crab House manager Ricky Colton said.

Fire Department officials say all 300 plus City of Charleston firefighters in the department familiarize themselves with the layout of the peninsula and the unique tactics to fight fires downtown.

The fire department says property owners can help keep their loss from fire to a minimum by:

Installing smoke alarms and sprinklers.

Keeping property and porches free of trash.

Keep alleys and driveways clear for fire trucks.

Call the department as soon as a fire breaks out.

Copyright wcsc 2012. All rights reserved.