MARION, SC (WMBF) – Firefighters believed a kitchen fire started a blaze that did damage to a residential building in Marion Tuesday morning.
The building on Harlee Street, which is about the size of a house, has three smaller apartments that house four adults and six children.
One woman was reportedly cooking in the kitchen in the back unit when grease sparked the first flame right in front of her face. Everyone inside at the time was able to get out safely.
The City of Marion Fire Department initially arrived around 11 a.m., with 10 firefighters, but had to call two outside agencies for more help. The city of Mullins and Marion Rural Fire Department responded with 25 firefighters, and they got the fire out in less than 30 minutes.
The back of the building sustained the heaviest damage. The fire moved from the kitchen to the common attic, which then spread to the entire building.
Marion Fire Chief Trey Cooper said there were working smoke detectors inside the building, but no fire extinguishers. When his firefighters arrived, people were trying to put the fire out with buckets of water, which will only make a grease fire spread.
"The best thing to do, a fire extinguisher is made to put out a grease fire but it's made for the beginning of a fire," Cooper said. "Once it's spread to the surrounding areas, get out and call the fire department."
Nakira Churchwell lived inside the home with her two children. She was cooking in the kitchen when the grease sparked the fire.
"I made it worse when I snatched it and grease got on the stove and it splattered," said Churchwell. "So for it to just spark out of the blue, I never expected that to happen. I have nothing now. Nothing, and my kids have nothing."
Once the fire left the kitchen, it spread to the common attic and tore through the entire building.
"Every home should have a fire extinguisher and every home should have working smoke detectors," said Cooper. "A fire extinguisher is meant for a small fire. Once it is too big, don't try to fight it on your own. Get out and make sure everyone gets out, and stay out of the house and call 911. Every second matters, because if we could have gotten to the fire before it got to the attic, we may have had a much different outcome, a better outcome."
Neighbors and others from the community came Tuesday to assist the affected families. The Marion Fire Department is making sure the American Red Cross provides a temporary place to live, as well as food and clothing.