Fire safety a priority in Richland County after multiple house fires

Lakeshore Drive Fire

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH) -- "My whole life gone," said Carla Harriett. Harriett lost everything last Tuesday in a house fire.

Shortly before 2 p.m. Tuesday she was leaving Walmart and heard her apartment was on fire. The mother of four rushed home and found friends and neighbors watching their lives burning before their eyes.

"Disgusted, heart broken; you really don't know where to start to pick up the pieces," said Harriett.

Harriett and her neighbors weren't alone; there were three other major fires over the weekend.

The fires left many sifting through memories and starting over. While no one was seriously injured in those fires, Harriett says they have a long road ahead.

"We all have to pick up and rebuild now some place else someplace different, so I mean it's a tough road but I mean, we'll all get through it," said Harriett.

This time of year is particularly busy at the Columbia Richland Fire Department. Space heaters and unattended pots can lead to busy days for firefighters.

Spokesman Brick Lewis says most of the recent fires happened while residents were sleeping. He says that one simple device can save your life.

"Smoke detectors are the best way to alert you and your family to get out of the home. That's why we encourage you to check them, check the batteries and to check the smoke detectors to make sure it's properly working," said Lewis.

Lewis also encourages families to have a plan in place should a fire break out. That plan should include a safe meeting place and routinely practice the plan should disaster strike.

"Tuesday just happened to be a bad day," adds Harriett.

Monday brought a sign of hope for Harriett while sifting through her stuff; she was able to locate a bracelet her daughter got on Christmas from her great grandmother. The bracelet brought her a sign of better things to come.

"Just that in it's self is going to make me feel a little bit better about what happened; what's going on now and what's going to happen in the future," adds Harriett.

For more safety tips from the Columbia Fire Department, click here.