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Two Easter weekend South Strand house fires kill 4, injures 6

  • Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Chris Sokoloski/South Strand News Two people died after fire swept through a Garden City house early Easter morning.

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The first fire was reported at about 9 a.m. Saturday in a second-floor condominium at Riverwood Condominium complex on Lotus Court in Murrells Inlet.

Heavy smoke was billowing from the condo when the first responders from Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire Rescue arrived on the scene.

Two people – 35-year-old Tanna Fultz of Murrells Inlet and Brent McFarland, 32, of Myrtle Beach – escaped the flames by jumping out of a window, according to an incident report from the Georgetown County Sheriff's Office.

Two others were trapped inside the condo until they were rescued by firefighters.

They are identified by the Sheriff's Office as 56-year-old Andy Hildebrandt and 72-year-old John Long, both of Murrells Inlet.

Hildebrandt and Long were transported to the Augusta Burn Center in Georgia, according to Murrells Inlet/Garden City Fire Rescue Assistant Chief J.R. Haney.

Long died Sunday from multi-organ failure, according to Georgetown County Coroner Kenny Johnson.

Hildebrandt died Tuesday morning from multi organ system failure.

Witnesses reported hearing exploding sounds before seeing the flames.

Although the cause of the fire is still under investigation, Haney said foul play is not suspected.

Deadly Garden City fire

At about 4 a.m. Easter Sunday, firefighters were dispatched to a fire on Calhoun Drive where flames were coming from a raised three-story beach house.

According to Horry County Deputy Coroner Tamara Willard, 38-year-old Melissa Lamb of Timmonsville died on the scene of the fire while five others escaped the flames by jumping out of a window.

One of those who originally survived – 46-year-old Joel Lamb, Jr. of Timmonsville – died on Monday of injuries received from the fall, according to Deputy Coroner Darris Fowler.

The four others who jumped from the home are all children.

Two of the children escaped serious injury and were out of the hospital by Monday morning. The other two were in stable condition on Tuesday, according to officials.

Haney said flames were pouring out of the house when firefighters arrived on scene.

“Once we got the fire under control we were able to start a primary search to locate (Melissa Lamb). Unfortunately we did find that victim and it was a confirmed fatality at that point and time,” said Haney.

Haney said Tuesday it the relationship between the two victims was unknown and their relationship two the children who survived had not been determined.

He said the ages of the children range from 7 to 15.

He said in these types of cases, once victims are taken to the hospital, his department usually has very little or no contact with them which is why the relationships is unknown by his office.

Officials said it could take days to determine the cause of the fire but an incident report from the Horry County Police Department lists the death as “accidental.”

Haney said he is unsure why the fire is listed as “accidental” since it will be today (Wednesday) before the team of investigators get together to try to figure out what happened.

Haney said having two deadly fires in such a small area in less than 24 hours is something almost unheard of, not only along the South Strand but anywhere.

“I have spoken to a lot of fire chiefs and they say they have never experienced anything like this is such a short amount of time,” Haney said.

Surfside not called

Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire received mutual aid from Horry County Fire Rescue in both weekend fires but some questions have been raised about why Surfside Fire was not asked to help with Sunday's blaze in Garden City.

The Surfside Beach Fire Department – according to news partner, WBTW-TV 13 – is 2.4 miles from the charred home.

Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire Rescue was called first, sending an engine from Station 77 on Azalea Drive.

Haney confirmed Surfside Fire was not requested.

“Utilizing Horry County and their units from the south end, we didn't want to pull any additional units from this end either,” he said.

Horry County Fire Rescue provided mutual aid from Station 1 in Socastee and Station 20 on Scipio Lane. According to a dispatch time report sent to News13, it took Station 1 approximately 14 minutes to arrive on scene. Station 20 took approximately 11 minutes.

Midway Fire Rescue also provided mutual aid at the fire. Firefighters traveled approximately 10 miles to Calhoun Lane from its headquarters on St. Paul's Place in Pawleys Island.

Haney said calling Surfside “wouldn't have played a factor in our fire.”

Surfside Beach Fire Department officials say the town's fire house was fully staffed with career and volunteer firefighters Sunday morning.

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