COLLETON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Colleton County has the second lowest population in the Lowcountry, but in 2018 they had the second highest dollar amount of loss when considering damage from fires.
Last year, the Lowcountry had a combined 24 million dollars worth of damage to buildings from fires with Colleton County making up over 5 million of that total.
“Our dollar loss from building fires increased dramatically. In 2017 it was 2 million and over 5 million in 2018,” said David Greene, the Colleton County deputy fire chief.
Officials say it has traditionally kept to a steady rate, but last year there were great losses in the county that caused the spike.
“That can be attributed to two fires: one in March at Cottageville Elementary, then the White Hall Plantation fire,” Greene says. “Just those two fires alone count for 3 million of that total.”
Greene says those fires were ones that could be stopped from spreading to other buildings nearby, but not put out safely before the flames burned the structures to the ground.
“We had some fire fighters inside the school fire. We had some collapses there. We were genuinely concerned for their safety, so we pulled them to work on the exterior and then the fire spread pretty rapidly,” Greene says.
Officials said crews did increase response times by forty seconds last year, so this year they will use that advantage to decrease their 2019 total damages.
“I hope that the dollar loss we see is less this year. We hope to avoid having any major fires again. They were dramatic losses and they require a lot of resources and effort,” Greene says.
Greene said they are in the beginning stages of the 2019 budget, but more hiring and the idea of a budget increase to keep up with last year’s two percent call increase isn’t out of the question.
Charleston County had the most fire damage loss at 12 million dollars followed by Colleton, a tie between Dorchester, Berkeley, and Georgetown, with Williamsburg County coming in with only $335,000 dollars in damages in 2018.