By HEATHER WALTERS
A nearby yard fire spread on Easter Sunday to one of Colleton County’s largest public attractions, threatening animal exhibits and destroying some of the businesses’ retail space.
Bee City is an exotic animal exhibit and petting zoo, located in rural Colleton County near Cottageville. On Sunday, April 4th, firefighter-paramedics with Colleton County Fire Rescue received a 911-emergency call that a yard fire at a house on Holly Ridge Lane had spread to a nearby, adjacent property – Bee City.
When firefighting crews arrived, the flames were already inside some of the buildings at Bee City.
The fire destroyed a wooden fence, burned underneath two Conex Containers that were attached to a main building and burned the business’ kitchen and connecting Honey Processing facility.
“Products and supplies in the Conex Containers were also on fire,” said Barry McRoy, chief of Colleton County Fire-Rescue. “The Gift Shop, kitchen, restaurant and Honey Processing Facility were filled with smoke,” he said.
According to McRoy, several fire trucks were on scene, as firefighter used multiple hand lines to combat the fire and to also protect the animals and exposures.
“The fire burned within ten feet of the tiger cage, but no animals were injured,” said McRoy.
McRoy said fire crews had the fire under control within about 20 minutes, but were on the scene at Bee City for more than three hours, removing burned products and supplies. “The main building received damage to the north side of the building and the facility received smoke damage throughout the structure,” he said.
On Monday, Bee City Owner Scott Biering confirmed that no animals at the zoo were injured in the blaze. However, Biering said the fire destroyed four months of production in honey and spawned more than $500,000 in damage, according to preliminary estimates. This does not account for losses in revenue for honey sales and in destroyed revenue from the kitchen or gift shop, he said.
“This is one of our busiest weeks, with Spring Break in school districts across the Lowcountry,” Biering said. “We are open.” Instead of selling food out of the business’ kitchen, Bee City is now offering guests food from a food truck. Bee City’s honey-bottling operation is also temporarily shut down: it was being moved to a nearby location, as of press deadline on Monday.
“It’s hard to quantify what we actually lost in the fire,” he said. “The building was seconds from being gone, but we kept water hoses on it as much as we could until the fire department got here. There was smoke pouring out of the raftors … and we were scared we had lost it. But we are so lucky. We have great employees and good relationships with customers and vendors.
“Our ultimate goal is to honor commitments we made to people, in honey sales, and to not lose a customer,” he said. “We are so grateful our animals are fine.”
According to McRoy, a ranger with the S.C. Forestry Commission did respond on scene to the fire. The commission is now overseeing the investigation into the official cause of the fire.