HARDEEVILLE, SC (WTOC) - Hardeeville Firefighters got a call around 4:15 am Sunday morning that the Knights Inn on Highway 17 was on fire.
Police were the first to arrive on scene. As soon as they got to the scene, they started to evacuate the building. Firefighters are calling the scene a “major fire incident.”
A WTOC viewer sent us this video around 5:40 a.m. of the motel engulfed in flames.
The cause is still undetermined. They’ll begin investigating once the building is safe to do so. According to hotel manager, around 50 people were staying at the hotel last night.
Hardeeville’s Mayor says he’s heard that as many as 30 people were staying at the Knights Inn on a somewhat permanent basis. Some of those are families with children ranging in age from 18 months to 12 years. There’s still a need for food, hygiene items diapers and other essentials. The fact that so many were living here long-term highlights a bigger concern: the need for more affordable housing in the city.
“Hardeeville is no exception," admitted Mayor Harry Williams. "We have, it’s a multi-faceted problem. Number one, there’s not a high inventory. The occupancy rates in the whole region are very high.”
The American Red Cross helped 33 guests find another place to stay after the fire, providing them with comfort kits and financial assitance.
It’s a problem already acknowledged by the City’s leadership, and there’s a couple things Mayor Williams says they’re doing about it. One is forming a housing commission, consisting of city and business leaders, banks and other stakeholders.
“They’re going to look into ways that we as a government can proactively try to encourage and promote these attainable housing prices,” Mayor Williams said.
That includes identifying grants to help fund building projects, and incentives for builders. Mayor Williams says he’s also seeking outside advice through his involvement with the Southern Lowcountry Advisory Board.
“They’re going to look into ways that we can perhaps do a multi-jurisdictional housing trust fund," said Mayor Williams. "And that kind of a trust fund is something we could all contribute to, and then it could be used to achieve certain goals.”
Goals like helping those wanting to buy a home secure bridge loans, for example. Williams knows it’ll take success with these initiatives to reach solutions to fix the affordable housing shortage, and give families chance to find more permanent housing.
Several people were injured, including a Hardeeville firefighter. All of them are expected to be okay.