033017 Safety: Early morning ‘wildfire’ leaves family homeless
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A fire that began in the woods burns the back of a home in Hagley.
Nancy Crawford/Midway Fire and Rescue

Safety: Early morning ‘wildfire’ leaves family homeless

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

James Smith woke up just in time. “I couldn’t see 2 feet in front of me. I was choking on the smoke,” he said.

A brush fire in the woods around the house on Hagley Drive where Smith and his family live burned through the back wall of the two-story structure early Monday morning. They escaped with the clothes on their backs.

“They probably didn’t have too many more minutes,” Midway Fire and Rescue Chief Doug Eggiman said. “Smoke is generally what gets people at a fire.”

James woke his brother Dan, Dan’s fianceé Jennifer Murphy and their daughter Willow, 3, who was sleeping with the couple. He also woke Dan’s son Nathan, 13. “I got everybody before I got outside,” he said.

They called 911. Midway was there in five minutes to find the fire burning on the two floors and in the attic. Visibility on the second floor was zero, Eggiman said. Because the flames raced up the back of the house, the smoke detector on the ground floor was just going off, he added.

“We all lost everything,” Dan said. “It’s devastating.”

The house sits between Hagley Drive and the Founders Club golf course. Pine straw was thick on the ground and the fire followed it up to the house,

Eggiman said. Midway determined the fire started in the woods, but couldn’t pinpoint the cause. Dan said no one was outside on Sunday.

The fire burned its way into the house. Eggiman called it “a scaled down version of a wildfire. It was unusual.”

Midway got the call at 1:16 a.m. Eggiman estimated the fire had been burning “a good hour or two.”

“I can’t thank them enough,” Dan said. “They weren’t able to save our house, but they were at least here to save our neighbor’s house.”

Midway was called back to the house on Tuesday afternoon when fire erupted again in the woods. James and Dan returned later to see what could be salvaged. They tried to launder some of their clothes. It didn’t work, Dan said. His concern now is for the children. “They need clothes,” he said. “The biggest thing is trying to get their comfort stuff together.” Nathan lost a stuffed animal that he’s had since he was a baby.

No one was injured. The Red Cross provided immediate assistance and they are staying with other family. Jennifer, a radiology technologist at Georgetown Memorial Hospital, also needs clothes. She’s a size 10.

“Us, we’ll get by,” James said.

There is a gofundme.com page for the family. Donations can be dropped at 130 Reef Run Rd. in Pawleys Island

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