WHITMIRE, SC (WIS) - A sign on the door of Pearl's Café in Whitmire reads "Closed Due to Emergency," but owner Pearl Kinard could be found inside surrounded by friends and family.
"It's hard seeing someone you love lose everything they have," Kinard's niece Kaley Pressley said.
A three-alarm fire destroyed Kinard's home early Monday morning. Kinard says she was already at work cooking when she got the phone call that her home was fully involved. The incident gives Pressley even more reason to believe that bad things always seem to happen to good people.
"Anybody or any family in need, she reaches out to them," Pressley said. She feeds them if they need to be fed or just gives them a warm hug. Anything like that. She's a wonderful person in this community."
Family members have already begun to collect clothing and toiletries for Kinard at the Whitmire restaurant. They also plan to open an account at First Citizens Bank to collect donations.
Meanwhile, the fire is still being investigated. However, Whitmire Fire Chief Michael Thomas says a space heater might have sparked the blaze. Kinard says one was left unattended.
"You know, with our space heaters, we can have things like our pets or our young children who can accidentally knock those over when they're not attended," Columbia Fire Department spokesperson Brick Lewis said.
Lewis and the Columbia Fire Department are well aware of the damage space heaters can cause. This past weekend, firefighters battled flames at a Floran Street home in Columbia.
"We lost two of our family members to that fire," Lewis said. "It was connected to space heaters. You know, we offer our sympathy from the Columbia Fire Department to that family."
Lewis says CFD does not recommend using space heaters, but he has tips for people who do.
"Do everything you can not to use them," Lewis said, "but if that's the only choice you have, then just be very careful with them."
Lewis says have a three foot radius around space heaters is recommended, don't leave them unattended, and always use a smoke detector. Pressley believes it's good advice.