Officials implode towers in downtown Greenville

Published: Jan. 19, 2014 at 9:28 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 29, 2014 at 9:28 PM EST
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GREENVILLE, SC (WYFF) —A part of Greenville's history since 1970 was imploded Sunday.

Four hundred pounds of dynamite brought down the building. The 14 stories fell in about 14 seconds.

For decades, the building has served low-income seniors.

"About three years ago the housing authority became aware of some very significant structural problems with the building," Cindi Herrera, the interim executive director for the Greenville Housing Authority said.

Evacuations in the area began at 7 a.m.

The housing authority evacuated 100 people, including those living on the property's Garden Apartments and nearby homes.

Steve Pettigrew of Contract Drilling and Blasting of Jacksonville Beach, Fla., explained that certain businesses and homes within about 300 to 400 feet of the building were evacuated.

Implosion site used for large-scale training exercise

NEO Corporation, the company responsible for demolition of the building, are now assessing the site, and once it has been deemed safe, the site will be turned over to the Greenville City Fire Department.

Fire department personnel will then begin using heavy equipment to prep what is expected to be a 30 foot pile of debris for a series of large-scale community disaster response exercises that will take place throughout the remainder of the week. Part of the prep work will include placing props and mannequins in the structure prior to the implosion for tactical search and rescue operations.

The training exercise will commence with a call to dispatch the morning of Jan. 22 with a report of an explosion and subsequent collapse of the structure at 511 Augusta Street. The initial dispatch will include Greenville City Police, Greenville City Fire Department and Greenville County EMS.

In addition to local fire and law enforcement agencies, Bon Secours St. Francis Downtown and Medshore Ambulance Service will also participate in the training by providing patient care and transport of the injured. St. Francis Hospital personnel will operate a simulated emergency room, at an off-site location, in an effort to challenge the regions ability to manage a large-scale event with causalities.

The exercise will require the activation of the regional Hazardous Materials/Weapons of Mass Destruction (HazMat/WMD) team and technical rescue assets, including teams from Columbia and Asheville. In addition, the Greenville County Emergency Operations Center, which provides the command and logistical support needed for large-scale events such as earthquakes, hurricanes and wildland fires, will participate in the training.

According to Greenville City Fire Chief Stephen Kovalcik, the implosion and resulting site present a unique opportunity for area fire, law enforcement and medical services personnel to practice interagency communication and unified command and for first responders to conduct tactical operations for HazMat/WMD and technical rescue.

"Our regions operational capabilities are exceptional and proven on a regular basis," said Kovalcik. "The challenges this large-scale event provides can seldom be duplicated and will provide us the experience required to manage incidents that are the results of catastrophic events such as a hurricane, earthquake or wildland fire, and should be considered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

What's next for the site?

The site will be redeveloped into homes for families and low-income seniors.

According to the GHA, there will be three phases to the redevelopment.

Two phases will include 150 affordable housing units for seniors. The third phase includes a 200 multi-family unit. Eighty percent of those units will be market price, and 20 percent will be affordable housing, according to Herrera.

The last time Greenville saw an implosion was Sept. 16, 1997. In seconds, Greenville Memorial Auditorium fell to the ground. Now a building that's stood on Augusta Street since 1970 will see the same fate.

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