HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - When flames engulfed the New China Buffet on Restaurant Row in Myrtle Beach on January 31, the quick decisions made by the first firefighters to respond kept the fire from spreading to the adjacent businesses.
Horry County Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Brian VanAernem says the cause of the fire at the New China Buffet has not been determined, but they have narrowed down the point of origin.
"Investigators have been working on it," VanAernem says. "I know it's taken a long time. there's a lot that goes into that investigation, especially a building of that size. but they did find the area of origin which is going to be in the laundry room slash storage area of the building."
It was still dark in those early morning hours when flames took over the restaurant. Firefighters tried to put them out, but in the end the flames took over the building. Investigators have picked through what's left of the building to determine what caused the fire. Now, the only cause ruled out is arson.
"The issue is that the damage was so severe, they were actually unable to make a determination of a cause of fire," VanAernem continues. "So, all the electrical wiring, and burn patterns and stuff, everything was so severe there's really, at this point, there's no way they can make a determination of the cause."
VanAernem says there are three initiatives firefighters look for when they get to a fire: life safety, property conservation and natural conservation - which is protecting everything that surrounds whatever's burning from catching fire. He says flying embers and radiant heat cause fires to spread in many cases, but not that day.