Fire sparked by lightning killed animals in Huntington Beach State Park Nature Center
An early morning blaze Wednesday likely caused by a lightning strike at a Huntington Beach State Park nature center killed several animals inside and destroyed the property, authorities said.
Midway Fire Rescue Chief Doug Eggiman said the 911 call came in at 2:34 a.m. for the structure fire, and the first crews arrived about 2:40 a.m. The fire was under control around 4:35 a.m.
Eggiman said crews from Georgetown Fire and Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire Department helped battle the blaze. It took a backhoe to take down standing walls in the three-story nature center.
A lightning strike likely caused the fire, according to Jackie Broach, public information officer for Georgetown County.
Several animals, including snakes and small alligators, were inside the center during the blaze, and Eggiman said there was no way they could have survived the fire.
Nature center volunteer Dale Scholfield said he hoped the animals’ death wasn’t prolonged in the fire.
“It’s obviously heartbreaking,” said Scholfield. “It (the nature center) was a good thing for the visitors, there was a touch tank in there where they could touch a stingray.”
No firefighters were injured, Eggiman said.
It’s unclear whether the nature center will be rebuilt. The S.C. Parks, Recreation and Tourism department, which oversees South Carolina’s state parks including Huntington, said Wednesday afternoon that the agency likely would release more information Thursday.
S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control was called to assess conditions of a nearby creek to determine if it was impacted by runoff from the fire, authorities said.
Eggiman said the general consensus is that the creek was not affected by runoff because so much water was used in battling the blaze that any runoff was heavily diluted.