A large fire at an abandoned building near the Talmadge Memorial Bridge caused traffic delays on U.S. 17 for several hours Wednesday and is now under investigation.
“The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is assisting in the investigation in determining the cause of the fire,” SLED spokesman Tommy Crosby said.
The fire blocked traffic on the Savannah side of the bridge and on U.S. 17 from the S.C. 315 intersection south to the state line, according to the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office.
“The area where the fire is located is an area which makes it difficult for fire trucks to maneuver to fight the fire, so the roads were shut down to help with traffic control,” sheriff’s office Det. Sgt. Jake Higgins said.
Firefighters began responding to the blaze at 10:47 a.m. and arrived at the scene around 11 a.m., Jasper County Fire-Rescue Chief Frank Edwards said. He said the two-story building was formerly a fireworks store.
“We had three pumpers, seven tankers, two ambulances and a ladder truck there,” he said. “Technically, this fire was in the Levy Fire Department district, so Jasper County Fire-Rescue assisted. In addition to Levy and Jasper County Fire-Rescue, we had a unit there from Bluffton Township Fire District and the ladder truck from Hardeeville.”
Edwards said heat was an issue, but the biggest problem they faced was limited water supply in the area. Firefighters battled temperatures of about 100 degrees.
Edwards said the building was too far involved to require interior firefighting activities. If there had been a need for interior firefighting, Edwards said, it would have made the job more difficult to complete.
“We had to use tankers to shuttle water from the SCAD equestrian center with the tankers,” he said. “We used dump tanks at the site to dump the water into and then pump it to the ladder truck.
“The high temperatures and humidity were definitely an issue. Personnel are not able to work as long in firefighting gear as normal. It is important to make sure that folks hydrate well and are rotated regularly into a rehab area. We worked to do that as much as we could.”
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