Community seeks answers after fire destroyed building in Beaufort

BEAUFORT, S.C. – Days after a massive fire engulfed the new site for the Beaufort County Black Chamber of Commerce, neighbors are still calling for answers.

Around 1:30 a.m. on Saturday a fire broke out in the chamber building at the corner of Bladen and Duke Streets. This was the site of the new chamber building and was set to open to the public in January.

Since then dozens of first responders and members from South Carolina’s Law Enforcement Division and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms have been dispatch to assist and head the investigation.

At a press conference on Tuesday chamber president Larry Holman said the building was a loss.

He urged people not to speculate the cause of the fire.

“I am asking the community to please avoid making any premature judgements or assumptions about the cause of this fire and allow the federal investigators to complete their work here,” Holman said.

As of Tuesday, there had not been an official cause released to the public.

Still members of the community are hopeful and anxious about the origin of the fire.

“I think somebody set it on fire,” Beaufort County resident Tiana Parker said. “So to hear that the black chamber of commerce was on fire automatically took me back to the racist terms that we saw on the board.”

Back in July 2015, someone had spray painted the word “racist” on the organization’s sign.

Still others see the destruction as an opportunity.

“All of these people are here,” Anita Singleton-Prather said. She’s an active member of the non-profit chamber. “More people know about the Beaufort County Black Chamber of Commerce that would have never known about it.”

For her the destruction is not a cause for total despair.

“Adversity, that’s a vitamin pill for us. We just keep moving. That’s like Vitamin A. We just keep moving, honey. Take a licking and keep on ticking,” she said.

WSAV will keep you updated on the latest about active investigation for the cause of the fire.

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