St. Andrews, SC 01/17/2022 (Paul Kirby) – A commercial structure fire in a strip mall complex between St. Andrews and Bush River Roads heavily damaged several of the occupancies in that complex Monday evening. The original 911 calls began to come into Lexington County’s 911 Communications Center at approximately 7:30 p.m. Fire trucks and personnel from the Irmo Fire District, the City of Columbia Fire Department, the City of West Columbia’s Fire Department, the Lexington County Fire Service, and the City of Cayce Fire Department were all eventually called in to assist with this fire that had quickly advanced to a second alarm. According to the Irmo Fire District, this mall is in the 3600 block of Bush River Road and includes Ollie’s Bargain Outlet as an anchor tenant.
The transmission of a second alarm causes telecommunicators to send a predetermined amount of personnel and equipment to an emergency so that the fire’s incident commander doesn’t have to specify each additional resource needed to battle the incident. Subsequent alarms can also be transmitted if necessary. This is dictated by the size of the fire, the progression of the emergency, and the potential success of teams already on scene or who are still enroute to the call.
When the Irmo Fire District’s first level supervisor, a battalion chief, arrived on scene, he reported that flames had already breached the roof of the two-story building in several places. That’s when he requested the second alarm via radio. This was the first indication that the fire was going to be complicated and stubborn and would not go quietly without a fight.
Some of the individual occupancies in the building shared a common attic space. This can allow a fire to run unimpeded over the different businesses below. At set intervals, modern building codes require that fire resistant walls be constructed in any common attic spaces. These walls extend above the roofline and are intended to slow or stop the progression of a running fire. In the case of the blaze on Monday evening, fire walls were in place and helped slow the blaze’s progression. That assisted firefighters in bringing the blaze under control more quickly. Some of the businesses in the plaza that were either damaged by the flames or may have been affected by smoke and water include Hair Power, Sugar Daddy’s Jazz Café, Calvary Chapel Irmo, and Ollie’s Bargain Outlet. Businesses on the opposite side of the center were unaffected by the fire.
According to the Irmo Fire District’s Fire Chief Mike Sonefeld, at the time that the fire was extinguished Monday night, they had not yet pinpointed the exact point of origin of the fire. “It appears to be in the attic space over several units so we’re not sure at all yet,” Chief Sonefeld said regarding where the fire had started. He said the department would continue to investigate further Tuesday in order to determine exactly where and what had started this fire.
Chief Sonefeld also said that he wanted to thank the teams who responded from the cities of Columbia, West Columbia, Cayce, and Lexington County’s Fire Service for their assistance with the fire. “Their quick response when called and their quick integration into our command structure with their personnel and equipment working side-by-side with our resources made stopping this fire a much quicker job than it could have been. The well trained and equipped teams from our partner agencies definitely added to the success of extinguishing this fire and limiting the damages done to the businesses below that common attic space.”
VIDEO OF FIRE IN ITS EARLY STAGES: