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Officials: Lit cigarette tossed from vehicle may be fire's flashpoint

By Jim Fair, Editor
Published on Thursday, April 3, 2014

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Fire totaled this house in the Riverwood Farm subdivision Wednesday when it was engulfed in an inferno aided by high winds, dry grass and pine needles.

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Fire totaled this house in the Riverwood Farm subdivision Wednesday when it was engulfed in an inferno aided by high winds, dry grass and pine needles.



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A three-unit condominium was destroyed when the grass fired jump to the neighborhood.

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A three-unit condominium was destroyed when the grass fired jump to the neighborhood.



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This wide-angle photo shows the house razed by the fire on the right of the three-unit condominium above right.
 

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This wide-angle photo shows the house razed by the fire on the right of the three-unit condominium above right.

 



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Neighbors to the front right and left of the destroyed home had their yards scorched around the perimeter of their homes.
 
 

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Neighbors to the front right and left of the destroyed home had their yards scorched around the perimeter of their homes.

 

 



• Funds, donations

• Fire was 'A little hairy for a while'

A lit cigarette, most likely tossed on the ground from a passing vehicle, remains the focus for the flash point of a grass fire in the Riverwood Farm subdivision that quickly raged out of control destroying one home and a three-unit condominium, fire officials said Thursday.

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Combined with gusty winds, frequently changing directions in the backyard corridors of the cul-de-sac, low humidity and dry pine straw conditions were ripe for the fire to spread quickly.

Only quick thinking from neighbors Candace Curran and Sara Warpinski apparently saved the lives of Jami Powell, her 3-month-old twin babies and their dogs seconds before the home erupted into an inferno. Powell and her husband had only occupied the house for five days.

Curran saw smoke and then flames coming from Powell’s house. “It was a lot worse than what we thought.”

Warpinski said she was the first to get through to 911 to report the fire but there was little that could have been done before first responders arrived. “We didn’t have anything available for us to react faster in preventing this,” Warpinski said.

Harvey said Wednesday that firefighters were battling the grass fire when it jumped a fence and apparently traveled inside the Powell's home through a back porch. That delayed firefighters reaching the home and three townhouses, he said.

Veena Patel, the Powell’s’ next door neighbor in the cul-de-sac of the gated community, explained Curran knocked on her door and helped usher her ailing 92-year-old mother, in a chair, to safety. Patel showed where the fire stopped at the bottom step to her home’s back porch.

Exclusive overhead photos taken for GreerToday.com show many scorched yards of the houses that back up to Dillard Road.

“Saving life is the best you can do, not worry about your house.” Patel said. “It’s amazing more houses did not catch fire.”

Greer Fire Chief Chris Harvey, Fire Marshall Scott Keeley, Deputy Fire Chief Carl Howell, City Administrator Ed Driggers, city inspections staff and an insurance adjustor were among officials surveying the damage throughout Thursday. A full report on the cause of damage caused by the fire is not expected until at least 3-4 weeks.

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 Riverwood Fire in Greer, SC

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