American Red Cross assists more than 70 people following weekend fires

Fire at EME Apartments on James Island Saturday afternoon (Source: Charleston Fire Department)
Fire at EME Apartments on James Island Saturday afternoon (Source: Charleston Fire Department)
Fire Sunday afternoon at Summer Pines apartment complex (Source: Laurie Dedes-Dubose)
Fire Sunday afternoon at Summer Pines apartment complex (Source: Laurie Dedes-Dubose)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - More than 70 people in the greater Charleston area are receiving help from the American Red Cross following several apartment and house fires over the weekend.

Spokeswoman Jennifer Heisler said volunteers were called to apartment complexes on James Island Saturday, and then to two complexes in Summerville Sunday.

"Quite a few hours were put in this weekend," Heisler said.

Thirty volunteers with the American Red Cross responded to the scenes over the weekend.

"This is the biggest response that I remember since I started with the Red Cross," Heisler said. "The three apartment fires and two single-family house fires in right about 24 hours."

Just after noon Saturday a fire broke out at the EME Apartment complex off Central Park Road on James Island.

Forty-four people were displaced, leaving them to seek a Red Cross shelter.

"We were able to mobilize our volunteers," Heisler said. "They were able to hook up a trailer, get it over there and start setting up cots immediately."

The shelter, which was set up at the James Island Recreation Center, has since closed, and now families are staying in a variety of places like hotels or with friends.

The fire on James Island was also the first time the group was able to utilize their new emergency response van.

"We can feed people out of it," Heisler said. "If it's a single-family home fire, we can have the family come in, sit down out of the rain, out of the darkness to be able to start working with them and figure out what their needs are going to be."

Some of the more immediate things include comfort kits which are filled with hygiene items and even a stuffed animal for children.

Heisler said among the more than 70 people being helped by the Red Cross, 36 are children under the age of 18

"When you leave your home in the middle of the night or middle of the afternoon with only the clothes on your back, it's little things like that that can make a difference," she said. "That's the first step in the recovery process."

ARC volunteers were also on scene at two other apartment fires in Summerville Sunday.

Fire crews responded early Sunday morning to the Highlands Section of the Legend Oaks neighborhood for a reported fire.

The Chief of the Old Fort Fire Department said four apartment units were destroyed, with an additional four units receiving heat and water damage. The cause remains unknown.

Monday afternoon Chief Ed Genthert said he was contacted by a gentleman asking about the possibility of pets surviving the blaze:

"I informed him that we had completed our searches and found nothing.  He was upset, and the thought of losing a pet got to me due to losing one of my own a few months back. So I sent my firefighters back down there and told them to make entry and perform another search.  Well, low and behold this little guy was half under a bed in a puddle of black water." 

Genthert said the resident in the unit where the dog was found was dog sitting. The dog was taken to the vet for additional care and is expected to be okay.

Just before 5 p.m. Sunday, crews responded to the Summer Pine apartment complex off Dianna Court. Four apartments were damaged at that complex, leaving 15 people displaced from their homes.

Heisler said they will continue to be at the families sides as they begin their recovery.

The American Red Cross is currently restocking their supplies for future response efforts.

Community partners including Palmetto Goodwill, the Lowcountry Food Bank, and Catholic Charities were all on hand to assist the families from the weekend fires.

Copyright 2017 WCSC. All rights reserved.