Monday, February 17, 2014
“Me and my buddy were working on our cars … it was a bit after midnight, maybe 12:15 a.m., and I happened to look up and saw this tiny fire on the balcony of the second floor apartment next door,” Mike Hassan recalls. “I didn't think anything of it. Then 30 seconds later I looked up again and the flames were up to the third floor.”
Hassan, who lives in the 1000 building at Westbury Mews in Summerville, and his buddy Tad Steadman, a marine stationed in Beaufort, may have been the difference between a tragic fire and simply a loss of belongings, in the early hours of Feb. 17.
Hassan says he immediately called 911 and stayed on the phone with dispatch while he and Steadman ran into the 900 building, up to the third floor and started banging on doors.
Their quick action most likely saved the lives of the estimated 23 residents asleep in their apartments. What he originally thought was a fire in a portable fire pit, destroyed much of the top of the 900 building.
“At first, people told us later, they thought we were kids running up and down the stairs banging on doors to cause trouble,” said Hassan. “But once we started screaming 'Fire!' 'Fire!' they realized it was serious.”
“We kept banging and shouting, checking and rechecking until the smoke started getting really thick and stuff started falling around us … we thought we had better get out then.”
Hassan is retired Army and a full-time student. He says he was scared that the fire would spread to the 1000 building where he lives, but credits the firefighters who “contained it really well.”
“The fire department did their job extremely expeditiously,” he says.
According to SFD Cpt. George Ploth, the fire was through the roof when the first engine arrived from just down the road on Trolley.
Reading from the report, Ploth said the last engine left the scene at 5:30 a.m. “We had two ladders there [ladder trucks] and that means it was bad.”
Reports say that the fire was contained by 2:45 a.m.
In addition to SFD, Old Fort Fire Department and Pine Ridge Fire Department also responded. Backup cover for SFD stations was provided by Old Fort and North Charleston Fire Departments.
Dorchester County EMS, Sheriff's Office and Summerville Police Department as well as the Red Cross were on scene.
The Red Cross reported at least 23 people affected by the fire. The Red Cross will be providing assistance, which may include financial assistance for lodging, food and clothing, disaster mental health counseling, and referrals to partnering agencies for long term recovery.
The Red Cross was still on the scene Monday morning.
The cause of the fire was not known Monday, but it is under investigation, said Ploth.