Victims remember night of the wildfire

North Myrtle Beach, SC - By Greg Argos - bio | email

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Bob Portteus pulled into his driveway a year ago, got out of his car, had dinner and went to bed. He says he wasn't worried about the wildfire that had started near Highway 90 a few hours earlier.

"I didn't worry or think about anything," Portteus said. "It was contained; it was the last thought in my mind."

However, around 1:30 a.m. April 23, 2009, he and his wife woke up to noise.

"Next thing I know, my wife is waking me up," Portteus recalled. "She says 'Bob there is a commotion outside.'"

North Myrtle Beach Public Safety officers frantically evacuated the Barefoot Resort Community.

"The phone rang in the middle of the night, and it was our communications manager letting me know things were on fire down here," said Capt. Rick Buddelmeyer, the interim director for North Myrtle Beach Public Safety.

Buddelmeyer says he knew the situation in Barefoot was serious.

"I heard on the radio one of the battalion chiefs say he had about 12 houses on fire," Buddelmeyer said. "I knew then, we had a disaster on our hands."

Working from the communication center, Buddelmeyer made sure first responders were able to quickly evacuate nearly 2,500 homes.

"We could not control the fire. The fire was going to go where it wanted to go," he said. "So we had to do what we had to do to save the lives in that path, and obviously they did that and they did that very well."

It's for that reason, the Portteus' are grateful.

"A lot of things I miss, but I don't dwell on it or think about it," he said. "I'm excited to be 80 and ready to go."

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