Failure to burn 'eyesore' sooner blamed on several factors

SURFSIDE BEACH, SC (WMBF)  Neighbors in one Surfside Beach community are absolutely ecstatic that the building they refer to as the "eyesore" has finally been burned down. All that remains are pieces of metal, some embers, and lots of ash.

But some are still wondering why it took so long, complaining government agencies didn't approve the burn sooner.

"It's something like slow, slower, and slowest," said South Bay Lakes condo resident Marilyn Zuchowski, who's led the charge in trying to get the building burned down.

WMBF News has been investigating since November why it's taken so long.

Horry County Fire Rescue's firefighters used the building for training last spring, which everyone in the community agrees was invaluable.

"We do not have a building of this type to train at that we own," said Scott Thompson, Horry County Fire Rescue's assistant chief. "Our building that we use for burns and training is metal containers that are fabricated together to simulate a home. But it is not a real home."

But why did people who live around the training house have to look at it for so many months after the exercise was completed?

WMBF News has been given several explanations.

DHEC spokesman in Columbia, Jim Beasley, told us that Horry County Fire Rescue submitted wrong or "incomplete" paperwork. However, on-camera, we got a different story from a different DHEC official.

"No issues," said Matthew Maxwell, an environmental manager at DHEC. "Obviously some of it goes to our central office in Columbia. And quite honestly, with these budgetary times, we're doing a lot more with a lot less. So that could always factor into it as well."

Contacted about the apparent contradiction, the DHEC spokesman said he agreed budget cuts were also likely a factor in delaying the paperwork.

But there was another important reason why the building couldn't be burned down --- at least last summer. The temperatures were often too hot, making it dangerous for firefighters to train, according to a battalion chief.

Frustrated that the "eyesore" was still sitting at the entrance to her subdivision months after she thought it would be burned and hauled away, Marilyn Zuchowski called WMBF News.

"And I think it put [on] some pressure," she told us. "I don't know how long it would have taken, but I think it did put pressure on those that had some responsibility here."

She went on to say, "I felt the support from WMBF. And I thank you."

On the actual day of the burn, Marilyn was out on a nearby golf course, literally clapping as she saw smoke rising from her subdivision.

"And (the) people I was golfing with did not understand (why) I was so happy to see smoke in the air. But I did explain," she said.

We then asked her if the building being burned down was better than a hole-in-one, since she was so excited.

"No," she responded dryly. "A hole in one is better. But close to it."

As for another training project like this, DHEC's environmental manager on the site said he wouldn't hesitate to approve a new one.

Horry County Fire Rescue's assistant chief told WMBF News there are currently no plans for training in any other privately-owned abandoned buildings.

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