The March 16 fire in Carolina Forest and the 2009 blaze that destroyed 76 homes in Barefoot Resort are different situations, but Myrtle Beach area residents were displaced by both, left rummaging through rubble praying to find heirlooms and mementos that survived.
The fire that torched Barefoot Resort, called the Highway 31 fire, is still considered the state’s most damaging fire, destroying more than 19,000 acres and 76 homes with damages totaling $25 million. It burned for several days.
In Carolina Forest last week, 26 buildings with 109 units were destroyed. Nearly 190 people lost their home in the fire.
The time and constricted space were the main differences noticed by Lance Cpl. Keith Massey, one of the first responders in Carolina Forest.
He’s also a volunteer firefighter in Goretown, near Loris, and was on scene at the Barefoot Resort fire, too.
“It’s two different fires,” he said. “This had the making of being a huge disaster.”
He said the two were similar, but in Windsor Green there were so many people packed into a tight space around the raging fire.
Joe Gosiewski lost his home on Windy Pines Drive in 2009. He and his wife Nancy had only been living in the home for about four months when the fire broke out.
They escaped with the clothes on their backs, one box with jewelry and another carrying things like their passports. Everything else was lost.
Still, they never questioned rebuilding. He said the decision was influenced by the community that lent support in the same way aid is being rendered in Carolina Forest.
“That was the easiest decision,” Gosiewski said. “To stay here in Barefoot because of the people here in Barefoot and the people in the North Myrtle Beach and from the Red Cross and Horry County.”
He said he was stunned by the amount of help he received.
“It was overwhelming and that was one of the reasons that staying here was just a no brainer,” he said.
The good news for the nearly 190 people displaced in Windsor Green is that things will get better, Gosiewski said.
“This is the worst,” he said. “The first week is the worst part because that’s when your emotions are at the highest. If I could’ve said something to them a week ago it would’ve been let the tears out, grieve and then get started again.
“You just have faith. It will get better.”
He also said it’s a good idea to rebuild slowly because not everybody offering help is a friend.
“Don’t sign anything,” he said. “People will come out of the woodwork, be it public adjustors or people making promises to sign you up for some low interest loan. Those are the kinds of people, the jackals and the vultures, that unfortunately come out after a disaster as well.”
Gosiewski suggested taking time to make those decisions, because if they are legitimate it can wait a couple days.