Originally created 10/31/00

Blaze ravages Blackville's downtown



BLACKVILLE, S.C. - Flames ripped through the heart of downtown Blackville on Monday night, dancing across buildings and reducing half of a city block to rubble.

More than 100 firefighters worked through the night to fight the inferno that started just after dark and burned Main Street for hours. The fire jumped from building to building and lit the Barnwell County sky for miles, the glow visible in surrounding towns and counties.

Several blocks were closed to traffic by the South Carolina Highway Patrol, and several late-night convenience stores and groceries were forced to shut down for the night.

Three multilevel buildings were destroyed, including a warehouse and a historical bank building recently used by a medical office. It was unclear whether the buildings had electricity.

The buildings were located across the street from Community Bank & Trust and IGA grocery store.

No one was injured, and the cause of the blaze remains under investigation.

The old bank building was most recently occupied by Dr. William B. Clark, but he had moved his office to another street in Blackville, residents said.

Hilda firefighter Michael Hutto was one of the first to arrive.

"It was an inferno," he said. "You could see it from Hilda."

American Red Cross workers drove over from Orangeburg County, bringing coffee and drinks to dozens of firefighters and workers. An IGA manager loaded up shopping carts full of Gatorade and hauled it across the street to busy firefighters.

"That is one thing about a small community. They will come out in a minute," said Blackville resident Cindy Wiles, as she watched Denmark and Blackville firefighters pour water on the blaze from a ladder truck.

Fire departments that helped control the fire came from Bamberg, Denmark, Springfield, Barnwell, Hilda, Williston, Salley and Elko.

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (803) 279-6895.