Chief: Arson team investigating Front St. fire

Front St. fire scene still active, 24 hours later

GEORGETOWN, SC (WCSC) - Governor Nikki Haley spoke at a press conference in Georgetown Thursday morning after a massive fire destroyed seven buildings and damaged another on historic Front Street.

Haley, who took a tour of the damaged buildings and met with city officials, said she was it was with a very heavy heart that she was visiting Georgetown.

The governor also took time to thank the public for their support and agencies for all their work following the blaze. She also referred to Georgetown Fire Chief Joey Tanner as a "rock star".

An investigation into what caused the fire at the waterfront buildings that date back to the 1800s is also set to begin.  On Wednesday, Tanner said the blaze, which started around 5:30 a.m., sparked in one building before spreading to neighboring buildings through attics.

On Thursday, Georgetown Police Chief Paul Gardners said SLED arson investigators were looking into reports that there was a fire behind one of the buildings when the blaze began to spread.
The fire destroyed apartments and the following businesses: Goudelock and Co., Witzel Art, Limpin' Janes, The Boardwalk Market, Buzz's Roost, Harborwalk Books, Colonial Florist, Doodlebugs, and Zest.  It also caused minor damage to the Georgetown Maritime Museum, which is expected to reopen soon.

Thirteen people were displaced from their residences.

The loss of 10 businesses means 130 jobs were lost, according to the Georgetown County Emergency Management director.

Haley urged South Carolinians to donate money to help the victims of Wednesday's fire. The Front Street Fire Relief Fund has been set up at First Citizens Bank. First Federal/SCBT opened the Front Street Fire Fund, kicking it off with a $1,500 corporate donation.

Tanner said three firefighters were hurt during the blaze, but he is thankful they do not have to plan any funerals. One officer suffered a concussion from a blast, according to Police Chief Paul Gardner. 

Overnight, emergency officials kept ATF and SLED investigators out of the buildings, located in the 700 block of Front Street, because of structural concerns.

Officials said the buildings were still smoldering Thursday morning from the fire.

Some establishments on Front Street were back open for business.

Continue checking for updates.

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