Lexington, SC (Paul Kirby) – Although the fire at Prestige Composite in the 1600 block of Two Notch Road was under control late Monday morning, some Lexington County firefighters stayed on the scene of the fire much of the day. They were fighting hot spots and carefully pulling debris and metal from the building. They also monitored the quality of the air in several neighboring businesses as the pungent smoke still drifted from the destroyed structure.
A backhoe from Lexington County’s Department of Public Works assisted the firefighters. The operator was being directed by the fire commanders as he carefully pulled the twisted metal aside so the last of the fire could be extinguished. Throughout the building the fire crews found barrels of products they were treating as hazardous materials until proven otherwise. At the height of the fire crews reported some of these had reached a point where they were hissing and expanding. Firefighters were using heavy streams and aerial devices to pour thousands of gallons of water on the burning building before daylight.
The fire marshal for that region responded to the scene. He had been in the building before and was able to explain what he knew of the building’s layout and its contents.
A representative of DHEC responded and runoff from heavy rains and water from fire streams became a concern. The tractor operator was being cautious, so he didn’t puncture barrels that were still intact. At some point Monday afternoon a different machine was brought in from public works that was better suited for the job at hand. Air monitoring went on throughout the day.
The fire at Prestige was discovered around 5:30 a.m. Monday and it quickly went to a second alarm. At the height of the fire, the battalion chief in charge began asking for more equipment, mostly for the manpower those trucks brought. One fire officer was tasked with moving equipment around the county like chess pieces, making sure all areas still had protection. Although the fire drained a great deal of the county’s fire trucks and personnel, they never had to leave any area with no coverage. Partner agencies like the Batesburg-Leesville Fire Department, the Irmo Fire District, and the City of Columbia Fire Department sent some of their resources to either assist at the fire or cover areas of Lexington County.
The fire occurred just before shift change was to take place. This allowed some firefighters coming on-duty to rotate in giving the crews that had battled the blaze a break. Problems like a shortage of walkie talkies for both shifts were solved as fire officers directed the crews coming out to trade their radios off to the fresh crews. Batteries for radios were brought in so they could quickly be swapped before the fresh firefighters went on the line. During the entire process, an assigned fire safety officer monitored the operation to ensure that our personnel were safe.
Lexington County’s Fire Chief Mark Davis, a leader who’s not afraid to put his gear on and fight fire alongside his crews if needed, was on the scene early on, assisting as he could. At no point did he take control of the fire scene as his highly trained command staff did their jobs. Before parts of the building began to collapse, firefighters had been directed out of the building to a safe distance by their leaders.
Late Monday, agents from the SC State Law Enforcement Division, or SLED, were on the scene assisting in determining how the fire started and spread so quickly. EMS crews from Lexington County and deputies from the Sheriff’s Department stayed until they were no longer needed.
Lexington County reported via social media Monday that there were no injuries. This is a tribute to the training of the firefighting teams and leaders at the fire. The cause of the fire is still being investigated. We will continue to update as further information becomes available.