Witnesses describe inferno as AAA center destroyed by fire - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Witnesses describe inferno as AAA center destroyed by fire

Fire at AAA office on Forest Drive (Source: Tim Goldman) Fire at AAA office on Forest Drive (Source: Tim Goldman)
Forest Drive fire (Source: Jason Old) Forest Drive fire (Source: Jason Old)
Smoke can be seen for miles Smoke can be seen for miles

By Taylor Kearns - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A fire that sent smoke hundreds of feet into the air and could be seen all over Columbia Monday afternoon is now under control. 

Columbia fire crews spent the better part of an hour battling the fire at the AAA Travel Insurance Car Care Center on Forest Drive, between Trenholm Road and Clemson Avenue. 

Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins said the fire started just after lunch in the shop in the back of the building. "They actually used an oil heater that uses recycled oil," explained Jenkins. "A worker was in the back, he heard a sound and when he looked up the heater was on fire. Before he could extinguish it, it was too late."

"All of a sudden a customer at the register said, 'is that building always smoking?'" recounted Katie Rook, manager of Be Beep Toys across the street. "And we all said, 'no!'"

Jenkins said the mix of gasoline and other materials in the shop made the fire spread quickly. "By the time we got here, the fire was already burning through the roof and spread to the front part of the building," he said.

A rush of Christmas shoppers turned into a crowd of stunned onlookers as the building went up in smoke. "There was tons of flames," described Rook. "They were coming up over the top of the building, there were cars on fire, all the AAA were trying to get all their cars out of there and their toolboxes."

About 20 people were in the building when the fire started, but Jenkins said they all made it out. The fire caused $2 million in damages, and destroyed seven cars inside the shop.

"We've had a ton of people calling us saying 'are y'all on fire?' and people saying they can't get over here," said Rook.
     
Rook joined dozens others to watch more than 40 firefighters fight the huge blaze. The smoke could be seen across town. "It was just kinda chaotic, very chaotic," she said.

Traffic on Forest Drive was rerouted and backed up as firefighters worked in the area.

Copyright 2010 WIS. All rights reserved.

  • South Carolina news on WIStv.comNEWSMore>>

  • Thousands sing 'Happy Birthday' to Queen Elizabeth II

    Thousands sing 'Happy Birthday' to Queen Elizabeth II

    Saturday, April 21 2018 6:54 AM EDT2018-04-21 10:54:10 GMT
    Sunday, April 22 2018 6:07 AM EDT2018-04-22 10:07:01 GMT
    (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP). Britain's Queen Elizabeth raises her glass during speeches at The Queen's Dinner, during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting at Buckingham Palace in London, Thursday, April 19, 2018.(Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP). Britain's Queen Elizabeth raises her glass during speeches at The Queen's Dinner, during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting at Buckingham Palace in London, Thursday, April 19, 2018.

    Queen Elizabeth II is marking her 92nd birthday with a star-studded concert in London.

    More >>

    Queen Elizabeth II is marking her 92nd birthday with a star-studded concert in London.

    More >>
  • World's oldest person dies in Japan at age of 117

    World's oldest person dies in Japan at age of 117

    Saturday, April 21 2018 8:34 PM EDT2018-04-22 00:34:25 GMT
    Sunday, April 22 2018 6:06 AM EDT2018-04-22 10:06:21 GMT
    Nabi Tajima died of old age in a hospital Saturday evening in the town of Kikai in southern Japan, town official Susumu Yoshiyuki confirmed. (Source: TV Asahi/CNN)Nabi Tajima died of old age in a hospital Saturday evening in the town of Kikai in southern Japan, town official Susumu Yoshiyuki confirmed. (Source: TV Asahi/CNN)
    Nabi Tajima died of old age in a hospital Saturday evening in the town of Kikai in southern Japan, town official Susumu Yoshiyuki confirmed. (Source: TV Asahi/CNN)Nabi Tajima died of old age in a hospital Saturday evening in the town of Kikai in southern Japan, town official Susumu Yoshiyuki confirmed. (Source: TV Asahi/CNN)

    The world's oldest person has died in southern Japan at the age of 117.

    More >>

    The world's oldest person has died in southern Japan at the age of 117.

    More >>
  • Israel's Lieberman blames Hamas over Gaza deaths

    Israel's Lieberman blames Hamas over Gaza deaths

    Saturday, April 21 2018 1:44 AM EDT2018-04-21 05:44:10 GMT
    Sunday, April 22 2018 6:06 AM EDT2018-04-22 10:06:19 GMT
    (AP Photo/Adel Hana). Palestinian protesters evacuate a wounded youth during clashes with Israeli troops along Gaza's border with Israel, east of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, Friday, April 20, 2018. Thousands of Palestinians joined the fourth weekly protes...(AP Photo/Adel Hana). Palestinian protesters evacuate a wounded youth during clashes with Israeli troops along Gaza's border with Israel, east of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, Friday, April 20, 2018. Thousands of Palestinians joined the fourth weekly protes...

    Gaza health officials say 4 Palestinians, including 15-year-old boy, killed by Israeli army fire as thousands join fourth weekly protests on Gaza border.

    More >>

    Gaza health officials say 4 Palestinians, including 15-year-old boy, killed by Israeli army fire as thousands join fourth weekly protests on Gaza border.

    More >>
Powered by Frankly