NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Shocking video of flames ripping through homes is an all too familiar image to many in Horry County.
Almost four years ago the Horry County Wildfire of 2009 charred 19,000 acres of land and destroyed 76 homes. Victims from that wildfire say they had flashbacks as they saw the smoke rise on Saturday.
Many neighbors from the Barefoot Resort Community, an area badly hit in 2009, say seeing that smoke over the weekend in the skies over Carolina forest immediately triggered a sense of fear that was so powerful for some, within minutes they were preparing for the worst.
"I said to my wife, 'Oh my God! Carolina Forest is on fire. We went out in the back and saw the plume of smoke," said Barefoot resident Joe Gosiewski. He lost his home to the 2009 Horry County Wildfire. Nearly four years later, even the slightest smell of smoke, is enough to scare him and wife.
"And she was packing, because the last time we had no warning at all,"
Jerry Check and his wife are also Barefoot residents, and like the Gosiewskis they also lost their home on that April night back in 2009.
"Even after four years going by, it still affects us," said Check.
Many homes were lost in the Barefoot Resort Community. To date, the 2009 Horry County Wildfire is considered the most destructive fire in the Palmetto State. In all, 76 homes were completely destroyed, 96 were damaged, and thousands of acres of land were lost. These Barefoot neighbors say they've lived through the reality that lies ahead for the Carolina Forest Fire victims.
"There was nothing left and we had to start out lives all over again," recalls Check. "There are just so many emotions and there's not much you can do," added Gosiewski.
Once they got past the initial shock and the immense sense of loss, it was time to rebuild and get back on their feet, and they were not alone.
"The community came out to help us," remembers Check.
They say each of their families spent countless hours on the phone and meeting with insurance agents, mortgage adjusters, and appraisers. The rebuild period was grueling, but each family is grateful today it only took months to bounce back. This time, each family made their new homes safer.
"We followed the guidelines to make it a firewise house," said Gosiewski.
Check and Gosiewski say they've moved on from the tragedy, but as they reflect on the days of having no home, no clothes, and no food, they have messages of hope for the Carolina Forest Fire families.
"Right now things seem very dismal, but it will work out, and you will get back to your feet," said Check.
"Stay strong and have faith, because it will get better," added Gosiewski.