Front street

Georgetown comes together in wake of Front Street fire

October 12, 2013 

John Walters (right) hugs a friend on Sept. 26 on Front Street in Georgetown. Walters lost his dog Jake and a lot of art from his studio Witzel Art. Walters lived in an upstairs apartment in one of the buildings that was destroyed by fire early Wednesday. The Georgetown community has rallied to help rebuild.

BY JANET BLACKMON MORGAN — jblackmon@thesunnews.com Buy Photo

On the morning of the Front Street fire, I first saw the smoke when I opened the door to let the dog out. I called a friend and together we walked down the few blocks from home to what turned out to be a nightmare scene. We watched firefighters work to control the flames that ravaged the 700 block, eventually destroying seven buildings.

It was devastating to watch people I knew in tears as their homes and businesses burned in front of their eyes. Some people lost everything. That fire also took with it part of Georgetown’s history and a part of our community that was very special to residents from throughout the county. Even for those who don’t live within the city limits, Front Street feels like part of their hometown and is a place steeped in memories for many Georgetown County residents and visitors. I think that’s part of why the outpouring of support was so strong after the fire.

In the week following the Front Street fire, the community raised more than $50,000 to help the victims. It reminded me of one of the reasons why I love living in Georgetown County – because it’s a place where people take care of their neighbors. And around here, “neighbors” aren’t just those who live next door or across the street. They may not even be in the same Zip code, but when someone needs help, people can be relied on to step up. Little things like city limits and which side of the bridge you’re on cease to matter.

I think that’s something every resident of this community should be proud of and I’m glad to see that support continue.

Georgetown County government fully supports these efforts and all who were affected by the Front Street fire. In addition to the direct actions by our emergency services and emergency management staff in response to the fire, the county in cooperation with the city and the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce recently launched a Friends of Front Street campaign.

As part of this endeavor, Georgetown County Council proclaimed October to be Friends of Front Street Month in the county, encouraging county residents to support locally owned, independent businesses. It’s a small measure to aid local businesses, including those who have contributed to Front Street relief efforts, some Front Street businesses that were destroyed in the fire and are already in the process of reopening in new locations. It’s also a reminder that Georgetown is indeed still open for business, going strong and will rebuild.

The Friends of Front Street are also in the process of raising money to contribute to the Front Street Fire Relief fund. Donations are being collected from county and city employees, and we’re also getting the public involved by selling Friends of Front Street T-shirts and car magnets, all of the proceeds of which will go to the fire relief fund.

T-shirts, featuring the Friends of Front Street logo, are $15 for short sleeve or $20 for long sleeve, and car magnets are $7. Items are available in Room 304 of the Georgetown County Courthouse, and some of our staff will also be out and about, volunteering to sell these items at upcoming events. For more information, email hcausey@gtcounty.org or call 545-3097.

The fire on Sept. 25 was devastating for all who love Front Street and more so for those who lost homes and livelihoods. But I’m proud of my community for banding together to support their neighbors and I’m looking forward the next chapter for Front Street.

The writer lives in Georgetown and is the county’s risk manager, also in charge of the Friends of Front Street campaign.

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