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Early morning fire that destroyed closed down South Congaree business under investigation

South Congaree, SC 01/13/2022 (Paul Kirby) – An early morning fire at a former used car and U-Haul lot in South Congaree destroyed the building Thursday. The fire was reported just before 6:30 a.m. at 590 Main Street close to the Congaree Creek bridge crossing.

Before Lexington County firefighters arrived, an on-duty South Congaree police officer pulled up and reported that there were flames coming from the building. That officers immediately blocked Main Street’s westbound lanes so that fire equipment would be able to turn onto the property unimpeded. When Engine 305 from the South Congaree Fire Station arrived, they reported heavy flames and smoke pushing from the building that was once a single-family residence.

As more fire equipment entered South Congaree, the battalion chief located a fire hydrant in front of the Human Bean coffee shop at the Food Lion Plaza. He ordered two incoming engines to lay their 5” supply hose from that location to the scene of the fire. Once this hose was hooked and filled with water, all vehicle traffic on Main Street was closed from Pine Street to the Lexington Two Bus Depot at West Dunbar Road. A detour was set up by law enforcment officers that remained in place for the next several hours causing a major disruption of the morning’s commute.

Eventually, the fire was brought under control. Afterward, it took some time for firefighters to pull what was left of the ceilings and walls to ensure the fire was completely out. The building was also filled with a great deal of clutter and debris left from the business that last operated there. That also had to be moved outside before the fire could be declared out.

In August of 2021, South Congaree Police Chief Josh Shumpert closed Worldwide Automotive there after the business’ owner failed to get and maintain a valid South Congaree Business License. At that time, Chief Shumpert said the town wouldn’t issue the business a license because its owner would not bring the property into compliance with town codes for appearance and safety. Shumpert mobilized a team of wreckers that eventually removed nearly 70 vehicles from the lot. Many of those vehicles were either not operational or in poor condition. At the time the business was closed, Shumpert said one of his main concerns regarding the unsafe conditions at the business was the amount of clutter inside. He also expressed concernes about the sheer number of dilapidated vehicles that were spread haphazardly across the yard. Shumpert said then those would impede access for firefighters in the event of a fire.

Chief Shumpert said Thursday that since the business has remained closed and the building unoccupied since August, he had asked the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department to assist his team in investigating the fire. Due to the extent of the damages to the building, pinpointing the exact cause and origin of the fire may take some time.

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