House fire highlights challenges of fighting flames in Awendaw

AWENDAW, SC (WCSC) - The family dog came to the rescue of it's two owners during an early morning fire, Monday, in Awendaw. After the dog saved it's owners from smoke and flames, the Awendaw Fire Department tried to save their home. But the house fire on Doar Road was another reminder of the challenges of fighting flames in rural Charleston County.

The Fire Department said flames engulfed the roof of the modular home around 4:30 on Doar Road, just off Highway 17.

Two people were sleeping when they heard their Jack Russell Terrier at the bedroom door. One person opened the door to a wall of smoke.

The two people were able to break a bedroom window and jump to the ground.

Fire Chief Tommy Norris said the Jack Russell woke up the residents when their working smoke alarms failed to.

The couple were too shaken up to tell the story of their heroic pooch but neighbors said they're glad the two made it out of the house safely.

"I'm concerned about other people as well as myself," said 77-year-old neighbor Jasper Hodge.

Hodge and his neighbors on Doar Road are just out of range of fire hydrants in Awendaw.

Chief Norris says a line of hydrants cuts off right before their Fire Station three miles south of the fire's location this morning.

Hodge, along with others who didn't want to talk on camera, said they would be in favor of extending the water line for emergencies.

"We need it for the community," said Hodge. "If they had a fire hydrant right there and the fire department showed up, they could have gotten it."

Fire Chief Norris agrees with Hodge.

"Had we had hydrants on around, off the Awendaw water system, I believe it would have made a lot of difference in the fire this morning," he said.

Nine firefighters from six Awendaw stations spread out over 36 miles of Charleston County tried in vain to save the home Monday, but were unsuccessful.

But Norris said only half of the force could fight the fire in the critical first 10-15 minutes of the blaze.

"Out of those nine, four of those guys were dedicated to driving trucks and moving water back and forth," said Norris.

Since the closest water source was three miles away at the Fire Station 2, Norris said two tankers made five trips each to get enough water to put the fire out.

"It's more of a challenge then there's a frustration," said Norris. "Just trying to determine where you're going to get your water from for these fires is tough."

The Fire Chief said hydrants stop just before Awendaw, leaving 20 miles of forest north of the town practically unprotected.

Norris says the water for fires further north come from ponds they've highlighted on maps and station tank reserves at two other locations in McClellanville and Santee.

Norris said his crews will continue working hard to make sure the people surrounded by the Francis Marion forest are safe until a stronger response is assembled in the years to come.

Normally, the Awendaw Fire Department said they respond to six fires a year but including the burn on Doar Road, Norris says they've fought three fires in as many weeks.

The Awendaw Fire Department also received help from the Mt. Pleasant fire department and the Charleston County Rescue squad.

The fire destroyed the home and the cause is still under investigation.  The Red Cross was called in to help the residents and their dog, who were treated on the scene for their injuries.

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