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Lit cigarette ignited brush fire, $1.4 million in damage includes 4 homes

One of the 'biggest, hardest fires

By Jim Fair, Editor
Published on Wednesday, April 9, 2014

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The melted fence, described by Fire Chief Chris Harvey, lays melted in front of backyard furniture that was scorched by last Wednesday's fire at Riverwood Farms.
 

Jim Fair

The melted fence, described by Fire Chief Chris Harvey, lays melted in front of backyard furniture that was scorched by last Wednesday's fire at Riverwood Farms.

 



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30-foot flames were described climbing Leyland Cypress trees.
 

Jim Fair

30-foot flames were described climbing Leyland Cypress trees.

 



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Homes had melted siding to show for those that narrowly escaped the full wrath of last Wednesday's Riverwood Farms inferno.
 

Jim Fair

Homes had melted siding to show for those that narrowly escaped the full wrath of last Wednesday's Riverwood Farms inferno.

 



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The scorched yards behind homes backing Dillard Road almost completely surrounds the neighborhood.
 

Jim Fair

The scorched yards behind homes backing Dillard Road almost completely surrounds the neighborhood.

 



A lit cigarette was ruled the cause of a grass fire that raged out of control last Wednesday causing $1.761 million of damage that left four families displaced at Riverwood Farms.

Fire Chief Chris Harvey told City Council Tuesday night the actual cigarette was found along the road right away behind 306 Gladstone Way. “We can tell where the fire started by a V-shaped burn pattern from the cigarette that was found,” Harvey said.

The fire destroyed one home (504 Gladstone Way) and a 3-unit condominium, units 1, 3 and 5 on Brightmore Drive. Harvey said the 13 structures that either were on fire or sustained damage due to the fire, had an assessed value of $4.779 million. “The other nine received moderate fire, heat and smoke damage but are still habitable,” Harvey said.

“This was one of the biggest and hardest fires I ever had to deal with,” Harvey said. “Numerous gas meters and gas lines had to be replaced and siding was melted on houses. Thank goodness they were brick structures.”

There was no loss of life and no injuries. Nine different fire departments assisted the Greer Fire Department, with a total of 80 personnel. The Greer Police Department, Greenville County Sheriff’s Dept., and two EMS Units and a supervisor also participated. Harvey said at the time of the fire, “the National Weather Service reported winds at 20 to 25 miles per hour and the humidity was 16 percent.”

Greer Police Chief Dan Reynolds said there is no law in Greer against flicking cigarettes onto the ground.

Harvey described the first units on the scene, “literally disappearing in the smoke.”

Dry pine needles, said to be part of the community’s (homeowners association) landscaping proved to be an accelerant for the fire. “The melted fence (along Dillard Road) was like spaghetti,” Harvey said.

Harvey acknowledged the Greer Police Department, one of the first arrivals on the scene, “grabbed fire extinguishers to try help keep the fire from spreading. The community also helped with garden hoses and water buckets dousing hot spots.

“We were very fortunate this did not occur at 2, 3, 4 or 5 in the morning,” Harvey said.

Councilman Jay Arrowood (District 1), a retired volunteer firefighter, and councilwoman Kimberly Bookert (District 3) praised Harvey and the first responders for their quick and calculated response.

Harvey said it was clear he wasn’t going to be able to save the structures that were burning out of control and concentrated on the rest of the neighborhood.

Here is Harvey’s synopsis of the Riverwood Farms brush and structure fire last Wednesday.

“At 14:41 E-5 and Brush 2 and T-11 were dispatched to a grass fire in Riverwood Farms on Dillard Road near the Brightmore Entrance. Car-01 also responded while (en) route T-11 asked for Engine 1 to respond also due to the large volume of smoke, and Car requested PBFD (Pelham-Batesville) E-21 to respond also. Upon T-11 arrival at 14:46 he found a large brush fire involving Leyland Cypress trees with 30-foot flames, heavy smoke and the fire was extending to the rear of the homes located on Gladstone Way.

T-11 established command at Brightmore Drive and conducted a walk around of the condo structures where he noticed the condo structures were now involved and he diverted E-5 from assisting Brush 2 on Dillard Road.

While E-5 was starting to attack the condo structures, command discovered the single family dwelling at 504 Gladstone Way was now involved and ordered E-1 to this scene, command requested a second alarm fro BSFD to respond an engine company to the scene and for Tyger River FD to stand by GFD Headquarters.

The fire continued to spread to the backyards of #4 and #6 Calmwater, because the fire was continuing to spread a third alarm was requested for an additional Engine from PBFD, LCFD and Taylors FD to address the exterior flame spread impacting these structures.

Additional manpower and resources were utilized from GSP (Greenville-Spartanburg Airport) FD, WHFD (Wade Hampton) and Clear Springs FD.

Crews extinguished multiple fires at the following locations: 402, 404, 406, 500, 502 and 504 Gladstone Way; 2, 4, 6 Calmwater Court; 1, 3, 5, and 7 Brightmore Drive.

 

 

 

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