Review Category : Beaufort News

Holiday tragedy averted by firefighters

An almost certain tragedy was averted in Grays Hill late Saturday morning, Dec. 6, as a smoldering fire in a family home was discovered and extinguished before injures or worse could happen.

Burton firefighters received a call for a possible house fire just before 11 a.m. on Conestoga Loop in Grays Hill. Firefighters arrived on scene to discover a smoldering mattress in the yard of a mobile home.

The mattress fire was started by a 3 year old child playing with a lighter. The child’s older siblings discovered the small fire and dragged the mattress outside where firefighters completed the extinguishment. The home did not have any working smoke detectors.

Damages were minor and no injuries were reported.

Burton fire officials state a definite tragedy was in the making as an all too common chain of events were taking place — a child with access to a lighter, a home with children, and no working smoke detectors. Burton firefighters provided the family with two smoke detectors before leaving the scene.

Burton Firefighter Alex Murray warns residents about the dangers of the approaching holiday.

“Homes have extra guests, things get hectic, people get easily distracted, and that’s when something gets missed or overlooked and a tragedy occurs,” stated Murray. “Take this time to check your smoke detectors, put matches and lighters out of reach of children, and mount an ABC fire extinguisher in a location in your home where all family can easily reach it.”

A fire in a mattress started by a 3 year old playing with a lighter was discovered and removed from a home in Grays Hill today before serious damage or injuries could result. Firefighters warn about the dangers of the approaching holiday.

A fire in a mattress started by a 3 year old playing with a lighter was discovered and removed from a home in Grays Hill today before serious damage or injuries could result. Firefighters warn about the dangers of the approaching holiday.

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Burton Fire Department awards firefighter and officer of the year

The Burton Fire District’s Firefighter and Fire Officer of the year were announced at the fire district’s annual awards banquet last weekend. The awardees were nominated by their peers.

Burton Fire District’s Firefighter of the Year was Johnny Wynn. Johnny has been with the fire district since 1992 and is one of the most respected and senior members of the department. A private contractor when off duty, Johnny has saved the fire district and the tax payers hundreds of thousands of dollars applying his personal skills for station repairs and upgrades. Among the many recognitions Johnny has received over the years was that of saving the life of a child who drowned in 2010.

Burton’s Fire Officer of the Year was John Ireland. John has been with the fire district since 2007 and was promoted to lieutenant in 2011. Prior to joining the district, John served as a firefighter in the Marine Corps earning the Global War on Terrorism medal. John is assigned to the rural Gray’s Hill fire station where he is often in charge of emergency scenes and making critical decisions for several minutes without assistance. Among John’s accomplishments was his assistance in delivering a 28 week premature baby while en route to MUSC. John was able to revive and stabilize the infant before handing the baby girl off to doctors.

Burton Fire District Fire Chief Harry Rountree highlighted the more than 3,300 emergency calls and 81 structure fires the district responded to this year as testament to the men and women serving in its ranks. “Firefighter Wynn and Lt. Ireland are a reflection of the caliber people in our department and the excellent services we provide. I am proud of them both.”

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News Briefs

Help identify suspects in armed robberies at Lady’s Island Tiger Express

The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office is seeking the public’s assistance in identifying the suspects who robbed the Lady’s Island Tiger Express gas station in two separate incidents.

Just before 10 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 2, the store was robbed by a black male armed with a handgun. The suspect entered the store, brandished the weapon and demanded cash from the register. After being given an undisclosed amount of cash, the suspect fled the store, leaving both of the clerks on duty uninjured.

The following night, Wednesday, Dec. 3, just before 11 p.m., the store would be robbed again, this time by three black males. The suspects went behind the front counter where they forced a male and a female employee to the floor and took the money from the register. One suspect struck the male employee in the head while another suspect frisked the female employee, stealing her phone from her pocket.

The female employee was then forced to the office where they demanded she open the safe, but she was unable to do so. The male employee was then ordered to try, but was also unable to open it. The male employee fought back, punching one of the suspects in the face, at which time they all fled the store on foot.

As the suspects fled to the parking lot, a customer was approaching the store. The customer immediately ran back to his vehicle to call 911, at which time he was approached by one of the suspects who presented a handgun and ordered him to drop his phone. The suspect took the customer’s phone and car keys and fled the area.

The male employee sustained a minor head injury for which he refused medical treatment. Neither the female employee, nor the customer sustained any injuries.

At this time, it is unknown if the two robberies are connected. The Sheriff’s Office is asking anyone with information regarding these robberies to contact Sgt. A. Zsamar at 843-255-3408, Cpl. B. Disbrow at 843-255-3407, or Crimestoppers.

Port Royal man arrested for child porn

Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office investigators have arrested a Port Royal man for allegedly sharing electronic images depicting children engaged in sexual acts.

John Joseph Charette, Sr., 67, was arrested Tuesday, Dec. 2, following the execution of a search warrant at his Port Royal home. He has been charged with one count of Sexual Exploitation of a Minor, however, additional charges are likely pending as the investigation progresses.

On November 24, investigators received information that a computer associated with an account at 1606 Edinburgh Ave had uploaded suspected child pornography to an online file-sharing program. A search warrant was secured and was executed this morning at the home.

The file in question, along with multiple other images of a similar nature, were found on Charette’s computer at the residence. All the collected materials are being reviewed and analyzed to determine any appropriate additional charges, and may then be sent to the SC Attorney General’s Office for further examination.

The investigation continues and further details may be released as they become available.

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Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office graduates class from Citizens Police Academy

Community members from Bluffton and Beaufort who attended the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office’s Citizens Police Academy’s 10-week course recently graduated. Classes covered everything from crime scene investigation procedures, DNA processing, crime scene witness tips, gang task force activities, the history of the sheriff’s office, and open cold cases.

Pictured above are the newest graduates who attended the Citizens Police Academy’s 10-week course offered by the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.

Pictured above are the newest graduates who attended the Citizens Police Academy’s 10-week course offered by the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.

As the only sheriff’s department in South Carolina that offers such an academy, Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office’s goal with each class is to educate residents to the variety of responsibilities and challenges the sheriffs face protecting Beaufort County while making residents more aware of public safety issues within the community.

Water rescue, traffic challenges, tourists, SWAT, K-9, plus day to day quality of life crimes — sheriff’s deputies are well-trained professionals who welcome citizen involvement and hope that through education and participation in the Citizen’s Police Academy, residents can work more closely to support law enforcement and continue to make Beaufort County a great place to live and work.

Currently more than 2,000 Beaufort County residents have graduated from the Citizen’s Police Academy. Anyone interested in applying for an upcoming class can contact Master Sgt. Mike Jennings at 843-255-3287.

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City names Senior Project Manager

David Coleman, who has shepherded numerous infrastructure projects for Beaufort County, will be the City of Beaufort’s Senior Project Manager when he starts Jan. 5.

The position will guide and supervise infrastructure projects in the city that are approved, budgeted and ready to start. Among the advertised qualifications sought were 8-10 years of management level experience and a full understanding of sound engineering and construction principals that are required in complex infrastructure projects.

“We are very fortunate to have someone step up with David’s background and experience in similar types of project management, especially someone who understands the local, county and state permitting processes and how things work,” Beaufort City Manager Scott Dadson said.

“David is a welcome addition to our team and I know he’ll hit the ground running with his background with projects across Beaufort County,” Dadson said.

For the past seven years, Coleman has worked as the county’s Capital Improvement Project Manager, leading projects such as the St. Helena Island library, various recreational center and field improvements, boat landings and stormwater and drainage upgrades.

Coleman’s initial priorities for the position include the upcoming $30 million Boundary Street construction and redevelopment, construction of a new fire station off Ribaut Road, and various road improvements including a stormwater drainage and sidewalk project at Allison Road.

“This is an important position for Beaufort as we move into several major infrastructure projects that will require daily, and sometimes even hourly, supervision,” said Bill Prokop, director of human resources for Beaufort. “Having in-house expertise will help ensure our projects are done properly, that our community is kept informed with accurate information, and that we keep our costs under control.”

More than 50 people from across the country applied for the Senior Project Manager position, Prokop said. “We were very pleased with both the number and the exceptional quality of our applicants for this position. That speaks highly to the desirability of working in and for the City of Beaufort.”

Coleman earned his degree in Civil Engineering with an emphasis in structural analysis and water resources from the University of South Carolina. Prior to joining the County’s Engineering Division, he was the engineer in charge at C&D Home Builders, a Beaufort-based firm that designed and built residential, commercial and industrial projects.

The new position will report directly to the City Manager and is expected to regularly update the City Council on the infrastructure improvements. The job is expected to last 18-36 months.

The Boundary Street redevelopment and construction are expected to start this winter. The approximate 1.5-mile project will improve driver and pedestrian safety, create a more attractive entry to Beaufort’s historic district, and encourage economic growth. Coleman will work with county engineers, the South Carolina DOT, contractors, city leaders and affected businesses to ensure as smooth a process as possible.

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Owner cited after dog, puppies found starving

On Tuesday, Nov. 25, Beaufort County Animal Services visited a home in Beaufort after the family’s dog reportedly bit another dog. When Animal Service Officers arrived, they found a mother dog and her five young puppies that appeared to be starving. The puppies are believed to be 4 weeks old.

Animal Services immediately took custody of the dogs and cited the owner with Animal Cruelty.

The mother and her puppies were being examined by a veterinarian who says all the animals are extremely malnourished and anemic.

The public is urged to call 843-255-5010 if they believe an animal is being mistreated. Reports can stay anonymous..

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Sheriff’s Office acquires helicopter

The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office has added the element of air to its collection of tools available to assist in search and rescue missions throughout the county.

Utilizing the Department of Defense Excess Property Program (DoD 1033), the Sheriff’s Office has acquired a 1971 206A (Civilian) OH-58 Kiowa helicopter. This program allowed the Sheriff’s Office to receive the aircraft for free, with the operational costs already in the Sheriff’s Office current budget.

News-Sheriff's office helicopter 11-27The helicopter will be piloted by Rob Wright of Beaufort County Mosquito Control and co-piloted by David Galm of the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Management Division. Missions will focus on:

Search response (in conjunction with US Coast Guard and SC Department of Natural Resources as  applicable):

• Missing/overdue boaters, swimmers

• Missing children

• Missing vulnerable adults (Alzheimer’s/Dementia patients)

• Otherwise endangered persons

• Manhunts for violent offenders (when there is high probability of success)

• Locating stolen vehicles/other outdoor criminal activity

Support response:

• Special  operations (ex: flying a bomb technician to another county for rapid support)

• Enforcement for special events requiring crowd control (ex: St. Patrick’s Day Parade).

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Fire claims Grays Hill home

Burton Fire District responded to a house fire just before the Thanksgiving holiday in what fire officials state was a particularly tragic event.

On Friday, November 21 just before 9 a.m., Burton firefighters were called to the scene of a house fire in the 300 block of Bruce K Smalls. Fire crews from the Grays Hill fire station arrived on scene in less than five minutes and found heavy smoke coming from the home. It was unknown if anyone was inside.

The fire was extinguished in less than 30 minutes but the home suffered heavy damage.

The fire was extinguished in less than 30 minutes but the home suffered heavy damage.

Burton Fire Lieutenant Tradd Mills was one of the first firefighters on scene and quickly noted children’s toys on the front porch. “That was particularly unnerving,” stated Mills. “The house is on fire, you don’t know if anyone’s inside, and see children’s toys on the front porch. We knew we had to get inside quick.”

Mills and his crew had to force the locked front door and did a search inside rapidly deteriorating home. Once the home was searched and found clear, firefighters engaged the fire which was starting to break through the roof. The family dog was rescued by firefighters.

The family had just left for the day and was dropping their children off at school when the fire broke out. The home was heavily damaged in the fire with the family losing virtually everything.

“Every fire we respond to is a sad event, but this fire being just before the holidays and in the home of children made it a bit more tragic,” stated Mills.

The cause of the fire is believed to involve improper use of electrical cords.

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Fire district improves insurance classification

The Lady’s Island-St. Helena Fire District is proud to announce that after a complete review of the Fire District’s operations and training the Insurance Services Office (ISO) has rated the District as a Class 3.

Effective December 1, the rating will drop from a Class 4 to 3. The rating is based on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the best.

According to ISO, there are 48,000 registered fire districts in the United States with approximately 2,000 fire districts receiving the Class 3 rating.

ISO is an independent company that serves insurance companies, communities, fire districts, insurance regulators, and others by providing information about fire risks.

ISO evaluates three specific areas:

• The effectiveness of communications between a fire district and its local 911 communications center;

• The efficiency of the water supply system used to fight fires, including the availability of hydrants;

• Characteristics of the fire district itself, including firefighter training efforts, staffing levels and firefighting equipment.

“The new rating reflects good management of the resources available to the fire district, and excellent oversight and planning from the Fire Commission. The success of lowering the rating is to a great extent, attributed to the hard work and dedication from the firefighters. None of this would be obtainable without the support of the citizens of the fire district,” according to Chief Kline.

Chief Kline said, “This has been a successful year for the Lady’s Island-St. Helena Fire District. We moved into the new headquarters station, which placed all homes on Cat Island within the ISO required 5 mile response. The district took delivery of two new fire engines, and now the news of lowering our insurance rating.”

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2014 Property tax bills being mailed out

The Beaufort County Treasurer’s Office announces the mailing of the 2014 real and personal property tax bills, totaling $327,478,633.

New this year: Taxpayers with rental property will notice a new tax form was created to improve communication. If a taxpayer receives a rental property bill but does not rent their property, they should contact the Beaufort County Auditor’s office at or sign and return the coupon on their bill.

In addition to paying online at payment, by mail, or at one of the three Treasurer’s Office locations, full cash or check payments for real estate and personal property current taxes due will be accepted at the BB&T branches listed below. Taxpayers paying at BB&T will be provided with a receipt at the time of payment.

• Beaufort Main BB&T: 1 Kemmerlin Lane, Lady’s Island

• Beaufort Port Republic BB&T: 905 Port Republic Street

• Bluffton Main BB&T: 2 Burnt Church Road

• Yemassee Branch: 33 Salkehatchie Road.

Please note: Payments will be accepted at these locations through January 15, 2015. You must present your tax bill at the time of payment.

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