GEORGETOWN, SC (WMBF) – After touring the destruction left by the Front Street Fire, Governor Nikki Haley assured the gathered crowd that Georgetown is going to be okay.
"Georgetown is open for business," Gov. Haley said, encouraging people to support the businesses that are still open. "These were small businesses. These were mom and pops who got hurt."
In total, seven historic buildings were severely damaged or destroyed by the fire that ripped through the town's historic district early Wednesday morning, and 10 businesses in total are affected by the fire.
"We will rise through the ashes," Gov. Haley said.
Georgetown County EMS director Sam Hodge confirmed that the loss from this fire is 10 businesses and about 130 jobs.
"Now begins the investigation," Hodge said. "Georgetown Police and state investigators are going to find out what happened."
Georgetown Police Chief Paul Gardner added that the State Law Enforcement Division's arson team is on site, looking into reports about the fire starting outside one of the buildings.
"This is definitely one we leave to the pros," Chief Gardner said. "This is why we have ATF and SLED's arson team down here."
Later in the afternoon, as crews sifted through rubble, one SLED agent stopped a backhoe long enough to pull out a damaged electrical conduit from Limpin' Jane's. He then proceeded to take several photos of the damaged equipment.
"Investigations are already underway," Gov. Haley said. "This is how it should be done."
Georgetown Fire Chief Joey Tanner admitted that there was initially a water volume problem when fighting the fire, but disputed reports of a slow response time. He said there was a four-minute response time.
"Yes, it may have taken a few extra minute to get the ladder truck up," Tanner said. "Life safety was first." Crews worried first about evacuating any residents in the threatened area, he said, then focused on fighting the fire.
Jeanette Ard, a Georgetown Councilmember and local businesses owner, lost her business and her home in the fire.
"She lost her business," Gov. Haley said. "She lost her home above it. She's also committed to the fact that we're going to build it back up again."
Ard said that she brought her business to Front Street during a period of revitalization for the area.
"Now we're going to have another revitalization thanks to the help of the state and the community," Ard said.
Gov. Haley confirmed that because the fire was not a natural disaster, Georgetown is not eligible for funding from FEMA. However, she said she is looking what they can do from a historical and tourism aspect.
Haley said that funding is "going to be more private."
Haley said that a Front Street Fire Relief fund has been set up, and donations can be made at any First Citizens Bank.
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