GEORGETOWN — Mayor Jack Scoville isn’t surprised to see Georgetown band together in the aftermath of a fire that put about 130 people out of work in the heart of the city’s business district.
“We like to fight when times are good,” he said. “But, Georgetown is a small community. it’s a great community that will get through this together.”
The fire broke out before 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, destroying seven buildings, some with apartments above, and damaging another on the harbor side of the 700 block of Front Street.
Businesses on the other side of Front Street, which weren’t damaged but were closed during the fire have since reopened, and on Friday the sidewalk was lined with people standing along a fence around the fire scene and watching crews continue cleanup.
Scoville said he hopes the people touring Front Street are doing more than sightseeing.
“We’re open for business,” he said.
Though the businesses in the burned buildings are closed, Scoville said customers visiting other stores and restaurants in the city could help in the rebuilding process and could lead to more job openings for those out of work.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, said Chris Carter, administrator for the city.
Arson investigators with the State Law Enforcement Division and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms sorted through the debris Thursday collecting evidence from the scene. On Friday, Carter said investigators were still working on determining the cause.
An estimate of the damage, also had not been determined Friday. Carter said part of that figure will include personal property losses, which he said will be determined by the owners’ insurance adjusters.
The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and the S.C. Dept. of Employment and Workforce is stepping in to help the suddenly jobless victims.
The DEW is holding two employment services meetings on Oct. 2 for the displaced employees to provide information about filing for unemployment insurance, S.C. Works Online Services registration, searching for work, training resources and upcoming employment workshops. Those sessions will be held at 9:30 and 11 a.m. at the Waccamaw Regional Council of Governments.
Anyone able to offer employment can call the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce at 546-8436.
Sally Hogan, tourism manager with the chamber, said part of the challenge is travel.
“Some of these folks worked downtown and do not have a mode of transportation,” she said. “They really would love to have a job back downtown.”
Those who lost their homes have lodging at a hotel through the weekend with support from the American Red Cross. Hogan said the Georgetown Chamber also is helping find long term living arrangements in Georgetown County.
“Primarily Murrells Inlet and south, with a concentration in the city,” she said.
Hogan is surprised by the help the city has seen.
“We’ve gotten offerings of help from across the state,” she said. “But, the community itself has really banded together.”
Help even came from Loris High School during the football game against Georgetown High School Friday.
Athletic Director Barry Brooks said the idea to help the fire victims came from Nate Bellamy, a teacher at the school. The goal is to let “Georgetown folks know that people in Loris are thinking about them in this difficult time.”
But, they aren’t just thinking of the victims. Brooks said a donation will be made.
At every home game cheerleaders walk through the stands collecting donations for a 50-50 raffle. Half of the money goes to the winning ticket holder, the other half goes to the cheerleaders. This week, the money will be donated to the Front Street Fire Relief Fund.
To donate to the Front street Fire Relief Fund, call 546-8591 or visit any First Citizens branch in South Carolina.
First Federal/SCBT has opened the Front Street Fire Fund to help the Red Cross recoup some of the funds it has spent assisting victims and others from Wednesday’s fire in downtown Georgetown.
The money will go to the Coastal South Carolina Chapter of the American Red Cross which is helping victims with money, housing and food needs, and has provided 350 hot meals, hydration and counseling to victims and responders.
Checks should be made out to the Front Street Fire Fund and people can contribute to it at any of the bank’s branches.
Three fundraisers Saturday
Employees at the Reflections Grill at 816 Front Street will donate gratuities to Front Street employees now unemployed due to the fire.
Flotown Supports the Georgetown Waterfront will meet at Creek Ratz in Florence then head to Georgetown at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. They will meet at the Big Tuna on Front Street for lunch then plan to spend the day shopping and rallying around the Georgetown Waterfront.
The Chicora Indian Tribe of South Carolina will be on Front Street will collect donations from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Donations will be given to Scoville to disburse to those affected by the fire.
Contact AMANDA KELLEY at 626-0381, or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_akelley.