Neighbor: fiery student party was 'pretty dangerous'

Neighbor: fiery student party was 'pretty dangerous'

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Vi Hendley loves living in Olympia, but her home's peace and quiet was interrupted this past weekend.

"It's not an uncommon occurrence on a regular basis in our neighborhood and other neighborhoods in the Columbia area," she said.

She posted a picture on her neighborhood group's Facebook page of a pile of beer cans and trash, which she said was the aftermath of a big student party next door last Saturday. However, she said the trash was just the half of it.

"They decided that they might like to douse a couch with gasoline and set it aflame," she said.

She said another picture, also posted on Facebook, captured some of the flames. Hendley said firefighters were called after some of the gasoline trickled down hill. She said the inferno blazed just feet from her fence and not too far from her home.

"When you live next to heart pine houses and a wooden wall, a fire's pretty dangerous," Hendley said.

She said the incident was reported to the University of South Carolina Off-Campus Student Services Office. A university spokesman said the school has received the report and is looking into the allegations for possible student conduct violations.

"The university is concerned about off-campus student behavior, and we take a multi-faceted approach to addressing the issue including education and outreach initiatives as well as disciplinary action when necessary," spokesman Wes Hickman wrote. "We take very seriously our role as a community partner, strive to be good neighbors and expect the same from our students.

Issues with student partying was one of the issues identified in a series of meetings to reimagine the mill district of Olympia, Whaley, and Granby.

"When you're unable to party inside of your house when you invite hundreds of people to an event, it's no longer a party for a neighborhood it needs to be an event at an event venue," said Hendley.

"We've done some wonderful things with the restored cotton mills here at 701 Whaley Street and a new park across the street, but, you know, we're under a lot of pressure because the university's expanding, and some of that pressure is reflected in students who move into the neighborhood and have a lot of behavior issues that make it difficult for families," added Bob Guild, a neighbor from nearby Granby.

Guild said, despite the difficulties and the recent incident, there are solutions.

He said the city has just passed an ordinance that will make landlords more accountable to what happens at their rental properties. However, the party in question happened in the county, where no such ordinance exists.

Richland County Councilman Seth Rose said he hopes to soon introduce something similar to what the city recently passed.

As for the party this past Saturday, WIS reached out to the fraternity members that live in the house, but didn't hear back.

WIS did hear from the landlord who said the neighbor who reported the incident, Hendley, "complains about everything." The landlord said he won't look into it unless someone else calls him about it.

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