By Ashley Fletcher Frampton
Published March 17, 2010
Updated March 18, 2010
A fire that started Wednesday morning destroyed the Kiawah Island Club’s River Course Clubhouse, the first private golf course clubhouse that was built on the resort island.
The 30,000-square-foot clubhouse is “a total loss,” Mike Touhill, spokesman for Kiawah Development Partners, said in a statement. He said the Kiawah Island Club plans to rebuild the clubhouse immediately.
Two fires erupted on Wednesday at the private clubhouse. The first fire began at about 3 a.m. on the first floor near the men’s locker room, Touhill said. St. John’s Fire District responded and extinguished the fire.
At about 8 a.m., a second fire was detected in the same area, and firefighters were unable to contain it, Touhill said.
Firefighters had the second fire under control by early Wednesday afternoon, said Chief Karl Ristow of the St. John’s Fire District.
As of Thursday morning, however, the fire was not extinguished.
Because of the scale of the fire, firefighters could not go into the building to put out the fire, Ristow said. The building collapsed on itself, and some pockets are still smoldering.
Firefighters have been on the scene around the clock and are putting out the small remaining fires as they can get to them. Ristow said investigators will work to determine the cause of both fires.
He said the building’s fire sprinklers activated during the first fire and helped put it out. But at some point, the sprinkler pipe appears to have broken, Ristow said.
Crews surveyed the building after the first fire, cutting inspection holes and using a thermal imaging camera to check for continued burning.
“Our guys felt certain that that fire was out,” Ristow said.
Employees and members evacuated the club at the time of the second fire, and no one was hurt. Surrounding facilities were not damaged, Touhill said.
“We’re extremely grateful to the St. John’s and Charleston County fire departments, who performed admirably and valiantly trying to contain this fire,” said Charles P. “Buddy” Darby, CEO of Kiawah Development Partners. “While we’re certainly disappointed by the loss of this extraordinary clubhouse, we’re thankful no one was hurt.”
Officials said the Kiawah Island Club will resume normal golf operations as soon as the fire department deems the area safe for public use.
Designed by Shope Reno Wharton Associates, the River Course Clubhouse opened in 1996 as the first private golf clubhouse built on Kiawah Island.
The clubhouse, overlooking the Kiawah River and Bass Pond, included a pro shop, dining room, grille room, veranda, living room and fitness center.
Kiawah officials said 55 River Course employees will be temporarily relocated to other departments within the Kiawah Island Club.
Ristow said Charleston, James Island and North Charleston municipal fire departments have assisted at the scene of the fire, and the St. Andrews Fire District has helped cover other calls to the St. John’s Fire District.
Reach Ashley Fletcher Frampton at 843-849-3129.