CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Firefighters from multiple departments responded to a structure fire on East Bay Street Monday morning that damaged three upstairs apartments and a ground-floor bar.
Officials say a call was received at 5:59 a.m. for a structure fire at Big John's Tavern, in the 250 block of East Bay Street.
Firefighters say a resident of an upstairs apartment woke up to the smell of smoke and began to investigate the source. The occupant found black smoke coming from an adjoining apartment and returned to his own apartment to retrieve his cell phone and valuables before exiting down a stairwell and calling 911, firefighters say.
The first units to respond reported heavy fire venting from the second floor windows of the two-story building, according to Charleston Fire spokesman Ryan Kunitzer.
"First arriving crews quickly evaluated the situation and employed an action plan based on Standard Operating Procedures and initiated a defensive fire attack" Deputy Chief of Operations John Tippett said. "Crews exercised good judgment and performed as a well-practiced team."
The fire was brought under control at 6:31 a.m. with fire, smoke and heat damage to the three upstairs apartments, Kunitzer said. Big John's Tavern, which occupies the first floor suffered "significant heat, smoke and water damage," he said.
The Charleston Fire Marshal's Division determined the fire began in the front upstairs apartment. The tenant of that apartment was not home at the time of the fire, officials say.
East Bay Street was closed between Market and Hassel Streets while crews extinguished the flames. The road has since been reopened, Pinckney Street will remain closed to auto and pedestrian traffic indefinitely because of structural damage to the building, according to Charleston Police spokesman Charles Francis.
Charleston Fire and James Island Fire Departments responded to the scene, along with Charleston Police and Charleston County EMS.
Charleston Fire officials are urging people to make sure they have and maintain working smoke detectors in every level of their homes. Those alarms should be tested monthly and batteries should be changed annually.
Officials say unusual odors or visual smoke should be reported to 911, and urge residents to prepare for an emergency by making an escape plan to safely escape a fire emergency.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.