Seventeen residents of 12 apartments were displaced by a fire that erupted inside a unit at the Reserve at Ridgewood Plantation in Carolina Forest Tuesday evening. All residents made it to safety, but two firefighters were injured at the scene.
Battalion Chief Brian Van Aernem with Horry County Fire Rescue said one firefighter suffered smoke inhalation and another was afflicted by heat exhaustion, but both firefighters are expected to make full recoveries.
Van Aernem said the fire appeared to have originated in a second floor unit at 4925 Signature Drive and the blaze quickly spread to the third floor. Crews were called to the scene at 5:42 p.m.
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Beau Riley, who lives in the apartment below where the fire sparked, said he heard a loud, “boom,” and then saw neighbors knocking on doors alerting residents to the fire. The Horry-Georgetown Technical College student made it out to safety with his dog, Hannah, and cat, Shasta, but worried about upcoming tests with his study materials inside his apartment that was blocked off by a yellow tape that read “FIRE LINE DO NOT CROSS.”
Smoke and the smell of burnt plastic and scorched fabric filled the air around the building as residents and concerned neighbors huddled around the tape.
Eleven-year-old Renardo Parkes was outside on his balcony when he heard the explosion and saw the flames, he said.
Fire Chief Le Hendrick of the Conway Fire Department, which was called to the scene to assist along with Myrtle Beach Fire Rescue, said the fire spread to several units in the building.
Fifty to 55 firefighters battled the blaze, according to Van Aernem.
“Crews were able to very quickly get a good knock-down or control of the fire from the exterior,” he said, adding that the blaze caused “significant damage throughout many of the apartments.” The fire was under control by 7 p.m.
“They have searched the building,” Van Aerem said. “There is no one in the building so we’re good at this point.”
Firefighters worked behind Van Aerem to clear the scene for investigators.
“You don’t really want to tear all of your walls out and everything because they want to look at the patterns of the smoke and the fire on the walls because that gives them a good indication of where ... the fire started,” he said. “It looks like it started on the second floor.”
Dr. Colin Mermey was arriving home from work at a health clinic in Florence when he saw several fire trucks outside of his apartment.
“Not quite the best surprise to come home to,” he said.
Mermey said he was grateful no one was injured and was also glad he had renter’s insurance, which was required of tenants in the complex.
“I never really understood the necessity for renter’s insurance until now,” he said.
Mermey lives in a unit behind where the fire sparked. The local chapter of the American Red Cross was called in to assist families displaced by the blaze.
The Red Cross is helping the residents by providing financial assistance for food, clothing, lodging and other essentials, and comfort kits containing personal hygiene items, according to a release from the chapter Tuesday night. September is National Preparedness Month and the Red Cross is asking people to take two simple steps that can help save lives: check their existing smoke alarms and practice fire drills at home.
Investigators were working Tuesday night to determine the apartment fire’s cause.