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North Litchfield: Couple escapes beach house just ahead of flames

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

A young Andrews couple expecting their first child narrowly escaped a burning house in North Litchfield last week.

Bevin and Casey Casselman of Andrews were spending a few nights in her family’s beach house at 127 Cole Drive while their home’s bathroom was being repaired, according to the woman’s father, Donnie Dail. The couple heard a noise just before 10 p.m. last Wednesday and thought someone was at the door. Dail said his son-in-law walked onto a screen porch and was engulfed in smoke.

Casey Casselman felt his way back to the door and told his wife to get out of the house. When she opened the door to a stairwell, smoke and flames knocked her down. The couple escaped through the front door but heard their dog barking at the top of the steps. Casey ran back to save the dog.

Bevin Casselman, 17 weeks pregnant, suffered from smoke inhalation and minor blisters on her nose and arms and was transported to Grand Strand Hospital, according to her father. “Under the circumstances,” Dail said, “we are real blessed. A fireman said if someone had been in the house when they rolled up on scene there’s nothing they could have done.”

Midway Fire and Rescue arrived 4 minutes after receiving the first call at 9:51 p.m., and Chief Doug Eggiman said firefighters encountered a roaring blaze that threatened the house next door. “No question,” Eggiman said, “they were lucky to get out. Based on my experience, I don’t think they had more than a minute or two. This could have very easily been two fatalities and multiple houses.”

Eggiman said Midway firefighters realized the burning house could not be saved and concentrated their first efforts at getting water on the smoking siding of the house next door before it went up in flames. Firefighters alerted the occupants of that house and got them out safely. Eggiman said wind off the ocean was strong enough to blow the smoke sideways. “That obviously made matters a whole lot worse,” he said.

Steve Harris, a member of the Midway Fire and Rescue Board who lives across a creek from the burning house, said sparks and smoke blown by the wind threatened his house. “I had a ceiling of sparks over the top of my yard that was solid,” Harris said. “Unbelievable. Like nothing I had ever seen. Really scary. We evacuated the four grandchildren, and I stood on my deck with my trusty hose in case a spark landed on the roof.”

Ladd Dezendorff, another member of the Midway board who lives in the next block from the fire scene, said he thought an electrical transformer had blown but when the booming noises continued he figured it was a fire. “The strong, gusty winds made it a little bit frightening,” he said.

A wall of the burning house collapsed and made the firefighters’ job more complicated, Eggiman said.

“Within 45 minutes to an hour we felt that we had good enough knock-down on it that we were no longer concerned that the other structure would catch on fire,” he said. “No question, they saved that second structure. This could have been so much worse.”

Eggiman said fire inspectors could not determine the cause of the fire because of the damage to the house. Dail said this week he is determined to find out what caused the fire. He was at the site with a Midway fire inspector.

He said Midway received assistance at the scene and to cover its stations from Murrells Inlet-Garden City, Surfside Beach, Horry County, Georgetown and Georgetown County fire departments.

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