Investigators determine likely cause of N. Charleston apartment fire

Crews responded to 6 fires at same complex in last 5 years
North Charleston Fire investigators now believe they know what likely caused a massive apartment complex fire that displaced more than 60 adults and children.
Published: Oct. 13, 2022 at 11:51 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 13, 2022 at 7:19 PM EDT
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NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - North Charleston Fire investigators now believe they know what likely caused a massive apartment complex fire that displaced more than 60 adults and children in North Charleston earlier this month.

The probable cause of the fire, which broke out shortly after midnight on Oct. 7 at the Cedar Grove Apartments, was a cigarette put out in a plastic flowerpot, North Charleston Chief Fire Investigator David Biser said.

“This is one of the worst ones I’ve seen, especially since I’ve been here in the Lowcountry, with the amount of people that have been displaced or affected,” Biser said. “Fortunately, no lives were lost this time, but next time it could be a different story.”

Biser says he was not surprised to conclude that this latest fire was yet another cigarette-related incident. It is one of the top causes of fire in the United States, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

“It’s quite common, actually,” he said. “People use [flower pots] on their decks or balconies, during this time of year the plants or the flowers die out, they get dry. But they’re still using them to put their cigarette butts out and then a lot of times the cigarette doesn’t completely extinguish.”

In the last five years, crews have responded to six working fires at the same complex, all considered accidental.

Cooking incidents have caused half while improperly discarded cigarettes caused the other half, fire investigators said.

Biser says these fires were all preventable. He says you should never leave the kitchen unattended while you are cooking.

“Always make sure you use a non-combustible container to put your butts in, which is usually metal in nature, and we recommend that bucket has water in it,” he added.

Most residents were evacuated because the power supply had to be shut off for more than 48 hours. Many have been able to return to their apartments in the last week.

Two firefighters also received minor injuries in the fire.