Blaze at Hodge Sumter warehouse causes $2M in damage

BY ADRIENNE SARVIS
adrienne@theitem.com
Posted 1/21/18

Sumter Fire Department used about one million gallons of water to combat a fire at an approximately 200,000-square-foot warehouse on Hauser Street as the structure burned to the ground early Friday.

Firefighters were called to the building - …

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Blaze at Hodge Sumter warehouse causes $2M in damage

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Sumter Fire Department used about one million gallons of water to combat a fire at an approximately 200,000-square-foot warehouse on Hauser Street as the structure burned to the ground early Friday.

Firefighters were called to the building - about the size of a Walmart Supercenter - which was used to store materials for Hodge Distribution & Logistics, at about 4 a.m.

No injuries were reported during the blaze for civilians or firefighters.

Large clouds of smoke were reportedly seen from Mayesville - almost 10 miles to the northeast - as plastic and carpet fibers stored inside the building continued to burn about four hours after firefighters arrived.

A few fire department officials wondered if the smoke would travel all the way to Myrtle Beach or even some areas of North Carolina.

Fire Chief Karl Ford said the metal roof of the warehouse had already collapsed by the time firefighters arrived, which made it difficult to suppress the fire underneath.

The size of the fire required dispatch to call in all the department's off-duty firefighters, including volunteers, to provide extra help at the warehouse fire throughout the day and to respond to other fires in the city and county, Battalion Chief Joey Duggan said.

About 25 firefighters initially responded to the warehouse, and about 25 more were called out, including firefighters from Shaw Air Force Base, he said.

Throughout the day, about 90 firefighters worked the blaze down, according to Duggan.

By about 11 a.m., much of the smoke had dissipated, and very few flames were visible.

At that point in the morning, crews were using excavators to remove the roof so water could be used to put out hot spots - small areas that were still on fire or have the potential to catch fire, Duggan said.

There's a long road ahead to get that fire extinguished, he said.

They were still actively working the scene 12 hours after the first responder arrived on scene.

To ensure the ladder trucks had sufficient water pressure to subdue the blaze, fire engines were stationed on Magnolia and Harvin streets to pump water over about a half mile to the warehouse.

During an eight-hour period, the fire department used roughly one million gallons of water to control the fire, Duggan said.

That amount of water was split between three ladder trucks that were pumping about 2,000 gallons per minute all together, he said.

Each individual truck could have been pumping about 700 gallons per minute, he said.

Because the fire department required such a high volume of water, City of Sumter's water department coordinated with the first responder agency to make sure everything went according to plan.

City of Sumter Assistant Manager Al Harris said the amount of water used to fight the early morning fire will have very little effect on nearby structures, if any.

At most, people may notice discolored water, which should be expected after a serious fire, he said.

The color of the water should return to normal pretty quickly, he said.

The water department monitors water usage the entire time the fire department is pumping water, he said.

Other coordinating agencies included Sumter Police Department and S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. CSX Railroad assisted because a water hose was stretched across the tracks on Magnolia Street.

"This is the second time we've had to protect this bridge," Ford said while standing on Lafayette Bridge looking down over the fire and smoke.

A July 2016 fire at Sumter Casket Co. on Magnolia Street - on the other side of Lafayette Bridge - resulted in about $1.5 million in damage to the structure and contents.

Duggan said estimated damage for the warehouse's owner is about $1.9 million - $1.5 million in damage to the structure and $400,000 in damage to contents.

The 9.43-acre Hauser Street property - about 400,000 square feet, according to county mapping records - was purchased by Charles Hodge, owner of Hodge Distribution & Logistics, in 1995. The property was most recently used to house a storage facility for the organization. Another structure was damaged on the lot during a fire in 2006, according to Sumter County public property records.