Massive Fire in Downtown Savannah - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

10/14/04

Massive Fire in Downtown Savannah

Firefighters are feeling the heat after an explosive fire in downtown Savannah. It started just after 1pm this afternoon when a home furnishings warehouse burst into flames on Henry Street near Montgomery.

First it was heavy smoke, then minutes later, flames burst from the wall of the warehouse. Kimberley Platt works next door at Home Furnishings. It was her husband who discovered the fire inside.

"He went in there and cut the lights on and the wall was on fire," she told us.

Pretty soon, cable lines were up in flames. A transformer exploded. A gas tank inside blew up. And the building continued to burn.

Savannah firefighters plotted a plan of attack, caught up in the danger zone. "They were sitting there in front of the building," Platt said.

"We did have to back up, move these trucks, and protect our firefighters, protect these units," said Savannah FD's Matt Stanley.

Savannah firefighters had to change their battle strategy as flames shot back at their trucks and the men up on the ladder. By the time the fire was under control, everyone appeared to be okay, but the threat of explosions still existed.

"We had an operations officer on the scene who assessed the situation and made sure we didn't put our firefighters in further harm's way," said Stanley.

The blaze was so intense it took firefighters more than an hour to get under control. It also left hundreds of people without power. Savannah Electric crews have been working hard all afternoon to get the power back on for more than 2,000 of their business and residential customers.

If that wasn't enough, earlier today all of Victory Drive and 37th Street was without power, causing major traffic jams in downtown, because none of the traffic lights were working.

Savannah Electric tells us that when the fire started, a few of their wires did go down, so the Savannah Fire Department requested that the power company turn off two feeder lines.

A few people in the area saw the transformer blow during the fire, others say the power outage put all of downtown in a state of chaos. 

"There was already some fire and then there was just a big boom," recalled area resident Tony Dann.

"I was driving back from class, no cops were out there directing traffic," Brandon Jackson told us. "Everyone was doing their own thing. There were no street lights up, nothing."

As of early this evening, only about 60 homes were without power.

Reported by: Don Logana, dlogana@wtoc.com & Hena Daniels, hdaniels@wtoc.com

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