CAROLINA FOREST — John Gurley said he’ll be glad when the condominium construction at Windsor Green is over and his son can restart his life.
His son was among those made homeless when 24 buildings at Windsor Green I and two at Windsor Green II burned down in a March 16 wildfire. Gurley said his son and his girlfriend were riding around and got back to the complex just in time to see his condominium go up in flames. His dog, one of 80 pets that died in the fire, was inside, a fact Gurley said still troubles his son.
Seven units in Windsor Green I have been framed, and Gurley – president of the Windsor Green I Homeowners Association – said the contractor is obligated to finish within eight months of May 24 or face a daily cash penalty for delays.
“That puts it toward the end of January,” Gurley said, “but I think they’re going to beat that.”
The work is being directed and financed by the homeowners association, which owned and insured the buildings that burned. Residents were responsible for insurance on the contents of their condominiums, and while Gurley said most had insurance, all didn’t.
He said the goal of the association is to get the owners back into their condominiums with no cost for the construction. They will pay some extra in monthly fees for the sprinkler system that will protect all the units, as will all of Windsor Green I residents. The sprinklers are now mandatory by new building codes, and Gurley said the association’s policy is that everyone shares the cost – which he estimates at $10 to $15 a month – even though there are no sprinklers in the older buildings.
Gurley said the new units are to look as architecturally like the remaining buildings as possible. The only difference, besides the sprinkler system, will be more energy efficient walls and windows.
The fire broke out suddenly late on a Saturday afternoon and spread quickly through the complex. Gurley credits the quick work of area firefighters in keeping the fire from spreading to even more buildings.
No human occupants died in the blaze, although an Horry County sheriff’s deputy who stood guard at the site for two nights after the fire was rushed to the hospital for supposed smoke inhalation and respiratory problems. He was transferred to the Medical University of South Carolina where it was determined the deputy had bird flu. He died later.
Gurley said the new sprinkler system will have a monitoring system and dedicated phone line that will automatically alert firefighters if any sprinkler goes off.
Gabrielle Jakeway, a resident of an Ashley Park condominium that’s directly across a small wooded area from the burned buildings, said while walking her dog in Windsor Green this week that she’ll be glad to see the complex rebuilt.
She said she was sitting on her porch, on the opposite side of her building from Windsor Green, the day of the fire. A friend called to tell her about the Windsor Green fire.
“I said, ‘There’s no fire,’” Jakeway said. “She said, ‘look out your front door.’”
When Jakeway did, she was facing a wall of flames.
Gurley said he’s grateful for the community support that rushed to fire victims in the days following the fire. And he’s proud of the way the association’s board and others are working on the reconstruction.
“We’ve had a great team on this,” he said.
Gurley owned the unit his son lived in. The condominium where he lives escaped damage. His son has been living with friends and doesn’t yet feel whole from his losses in the fire, Gurley said.
“He’s anxious to get back in and start his life over again,” Gurley said.
Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.