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      Fire tears through Front Street buildings in Georgetown

      A fire broke out in a building in the 700 block of Front Street in Georgetown Wednesday morning and quickly spread to seven other buildings.

      The first call for the fire came out around 5:23 a.m. The fire started on the back patio deck area of one of the buildings and spread very rapidly when they got on scene. Soon, they were fighting fire on both sides of the row of buildings- the waterfront side and the street side.

      Seven of the buildings sustained severe damage : Goudelock & Company, Limpin' Janes, Boardwalk Market, Buzz's Roost, Zest Restaurant, Doodlebugs, and the Harborwalk Bookstore. Coastal Florist sustained minimal damage.

      T he South Carolina Maritime Museum sits to the right of Coastal Florist. It had smoke and water damage, according to Jackie Broach, Georgetown County's public information officer. She said the sprinkler system in the museum worked to protect the structure and its contents. Many of the buildings that burned are more than 100 years old.

      There were seven apartments above those buildings, housing between 10 and 13 people. Six were being lived in, the seventh was used as storage facility.

      There are dozens of boats lining the boardwalk and in the harbor. There are no reports of boat damage. Tow Boat USA was on scene helping move some boats out of harm's way. The U.S. Coast Guard patrolled the Georgetown Harbor while firefighters worked to put out the flames.

      At a 1:45 p.m. news conference, Chief Joey Tanner, with the Georgetown Fire Department, said they are starting to remove debris in an effort to determine a cause and learn where the fire started. That could take several days. Agents with Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the State Law Enforcement Division are helping with the investigation because of the magnitude of the fire.

      Officials have allowed people in adjacent buildings to get in and remove items from their homes and businesses.

      There have been no reports of serious injuries, but three firefighters were knocked to the ground when an explosion blew out the front wall of one building. They are all expected to be OK, according to Chief Tanner. A few other firefighters were treated for heat exhaustion.

      There have been reports of discolored water in households in the area. Georgetown County Emergency Management officials say the water is safe to drink. They are asking for residents not to wash clothes until the scene is clear. County spokeswoman Jackie Broach said the discoloration issue should go away when the firefighting activities end. Maryville residents were warned earlier in the day about impacts to their water service, but they should be experiencing normal service now.

      Despite the issues with the water, we're told firefighters were able to keep a steady stream of water on the fire the entire time they were battling it.

      Front Street is closed as well as Orange Street to Queens Street, according to Georgetown Emergency Management Director Sam Hodge.

      The American Red Cross has volunteers who are working with first responders at the scene. Georgetown County Emergency Management said on their Facebook page that material donations are not needed at this time but if you want to help those affected, click here.

      The Salvation Army is also on scene and is collecting donations here.

      Chief Tanner says the support of the community has been overwhelming. "It's been a very long and hard day," he said. There are also several church and civic groups on scene supporting firefighters.

      The Bridge 2 Bridge Run and the Wooden Boat Show, both scheduled for next month in Georgetown, will go ahead as planned.

      Plans for Startup Weekend Georgetown are still unclear: "Our thoughts are with those who work and live on the waterfront and all members of the Georgetown community. Due to the fires we are currently considering some alternate locations for Startup Weekend Georgetown. Startup Weekend was organized for the benefit of the Georgetown Community and we feel that it will be a positive event when needed the most. We will update as soon as arrangements are confirmed," said Anne Marie Bailey with the Maritime museum.

      Georgetown's mayor says the boardwalk along the water sustained some damage, but it was minor. "It's terribly upsetting, this is the heart of the Front Street business," Mayor Scoville said.

      More than 100 emergency responders were still on scene as of 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. In addition to Georgetown City Fire and Police departments, the following departments provided aid today: Georgetown County Fire/EMS, Midway Fire Rescue, the Georgetown County Sheriff's Office, the Town of Andrews Fire Department, Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire and Rescue, the Coast Guard, Horry County Fire Rescue, the City of Conway Fire Department, the Johnsonville Fire Department, North Charleston Fire Department, Williamsburg County Fire Department, South Lynches Fire Department of Florence County, Myrtle Beach Fire Department and North Myrtle Beach Fire Department.

      Governor Nikki Haley will visit the fire damage tomorrow and will brief the media at 10 a.m.