by the CS Editorial Staff ~
It has a name – the Daffodil Fire. Three of the larger-design homes on Daffodil Court in Sun City Carolina Lakes were burned to the slab in a matter of minutes. Several other homes were damaged, with one tagged as “uninhabitable” by the fire inspectors and insurance company.
The situation: It was a windy March day with low humidity. It appears that a carelessly discarded cigarette (not from any of the homeowners – none of whom smoke) was the catalyst for the six-alarm conflagration. Yes, six fire stations responded, which was barely enough to contain the blaze. But what happened next is both telling and encouraging.
Because passersby and neighbors reacted quickly, everyone, including pets, got out of the houses safely. A group of ladies on a nearby golf hole noticed smoke, called 911, and went door to door, making sure everyone got out. And even as the fire raged, community members were rallying support for the homeowners. Offers quickly came in, ranging from spare bedrooms to clothes to cash cards. And the HOA management team, FirstService Residential, spearheaded the relief effort with the help of staff and residents.
How do we separate the facts from the problems? And what are the lessons learned from this event?
Facts: Things we can’t do anything about.
- Retirement community homes tend to be close together. If one home catches fire, the homes immediately adjacent are vulnerable.
- Dry, dormant winter grass burns very quickly.
- The wood frame construction of the homes also burns quickly.
- A wonderful attraction to planned communities is green space common areas; however, brush in common areas makes excellent tinder for fires.
Problems: Things we can do something about.
- Put fire-resistant mulch around the house and in the plant beds rather than pine needles.
- The SCCL Board of Directors and architectural review committee are now considering allowing replacement siding that does not melt or burn as quickly as the original builder siding.
- Keep fire extinguishers handy and in working order.
Lessons Learned: Since there was a “this time,” there can someday be a “next time.”
- Call 911 immediately. Although the fire was in the back of the community, the response time was truly impressive, and saved untold other homes from destruction.
- Keep away from the scene. Folks driving up to see the fire, both in cars and in golf carts, blocked responders. Even folks with homes affected who moved their vehicles from immediate danger did not park far enough out of the way. Bottom line: Vehicles parked along the side streets impeded emergency responders or kept them from maneuvering vehicles as the situation evolved.
- A fireproof safe can prevent your essential personal documents and valuables from being destroyed by fire and water. The photos of the fire make it clear that what the fire itself didn’t destroy, the firehoses did.
- Where there’s fire there’s smoke. Smoke inhalation affected immediate residents, onlookers, and emergency responders. Smoke damaged houses in the vicinity that were not damaged by the fire itself.
- The insurance companies did an outstanding job handling the immediate essentials. Get in contact with them as soon as practical.
- As terrible as it was for those who lost essentially every material possession, neighbors and strangers alike showed great care and compassion in both tangible and intangible ways. The community rallied in a way it did not know it could until it had to in that moment.
- The HOA management team controlled the message and after-action response perfectly. Yes, understandably, everyone wants to help, but allowing professional management to manage made for an efficient and effective response.
For most of the residents of SCCL, a fire of this magnitude seemed unlikely and perhaps unthinkable. Now, we all know better. Residents understand that reasonable precautions make sense. But if the unthinkable does happen again, the community will rally, and no one will be left alone to pick up the pieces.