South Congaree, SC - Two early-morning fires, believed by town officials to be the work of an arsonist, burned the town’s new barn-style meeting and community hall and an abandoned home in South Congaree Sunday morning. Both were completely destroyed.
The first call was received at 12:57 AM. Even though the little barn was located just across from the fire station on Oak Street, it had been consumed by the fire prior to the arrival of the fire department.
As firefighters were putting out that fire, a second caller reported an abandoned house was on fire in the 1300 block of Pine Street just a few blocks from the first fire. That blaze was reported at 1:15 AM. This structure also burned to the ground before arrival of firefighters.
The little barn had been a major source of pride for the town in recent months. It was built earlier in the summer with volunteer labor and trees that were donated and milled on site. It had been constructed to coincide with the first rodeo and a successful barn dance was held there after the barrel racing event in late July.
According to South Congaree Mayor Danny Jones, a fall event that would have been held at the barn was already being discussed. There had also been a number of inquiries about how it could be rented by individuals for special events. A resident of the town had even asked about having a wedding there in the coming months. “This community came together and pitched in to make this wonderful facility happen,” Jones said as firefighters were sifting through the smoldering remains of the building in the background. “Although this is certainly a setback, it is something that we can overcome and we will get through together,” he said.
The home on Pine Street had been abandoned for some time according to town officials. It sat back off the road and was surrounded by a pine thicket. There was one small foot trail into it and firefighters were using that to stretch hoses to extinguish the blaze. The town had been in talks with its owner about how to have it removed or torn down in recent years according to officials on the scene.
South Congaree Police Chief Josh Shumpert quickly responded to both sites and immediately begin the process of trying to identify and locate the fire-starter. “The best chance for us to catch whoever did this is for someone to have seen something,” Shumpert said. “We are relatively sure someone set these fires, but finding that individual will be difficult if someone doesn’t come forward with information that can help.”
Chief Shumpert asked that anyone who might have seen anything, no matter how insignificant it might seem, call the South Congaree Police Department. “If someone saw someone walking late at night or captured someone’s image on exterior security cameras around their home, please contact us at (803) 755-2760 or our dispatch at (803) 785-2521. Any little tip could be the break that we need to catch the person who did this,” he said.