News 12 at 6 o'clock / Monday, April 29, 2013
The Price Wise store in Williston, S.C., burned down over the weekend. (WRDW-TV)
WILLISTON, S.C. (WRDW) -- A quick trip for bread and milk could turn into a much longer trek now that one of Williston's only two grocery stores has burned to the ground.
The now charred and empty grocery store is affecting more than the food supply. The loss of this store is affecting lives because in the town of about 3,200, 23 people are now out of jobs.
"It's sad. It's really sad because that's not just a business. That's a family," said former Price Wise Foods customer Francis Burns.
Shopping carts that once carried food now carry the charred remains of Price Wise Foods, one of Williston's only two grocery stores.
"It's going to be tough on the town for a while," admitted Fire Chief Milton Widener.
The scorched remains are a tough sight for the people of Williston, but especially for Widener, a fire chief who did everything he could to salvage the building that housed not only the town's food but many of their jobs.
"It hurts when you go on a scene like this and you're not successful because you know you're impacting so many lives because of what you couldn't accomplish," he said.
"That's a lot of families who, there's about 20 to 25 people that worked there that are now out of jobs," Burns said.
The fire broke out around three Saturday morning. Crews were on the scene fighting the flames within five minutes of the call, but once the front windows blew out, it became a matter of safety, and all the town could do was watch it burn.
"From that point on, all we could do was what we refer to as 'surround and drown.' Sometimes it doesn't matter how many trucks, how many men you got. It advances on you, and you can't control it," Widener said.
Now all that's left are the remains of scorched bottles on blackened shelves and the question of how it all started.
"Since the fire, I know I've run it through my mind a hundred thousand times. What could we have done different? And I haven't come up with an answer yet," Widener said.
"Just pray for the people who work there and hope that they will be able to come back from this and better," Burns said.
Widener says they suspect an electrical problem is what sparked the fire, but they are still investigating. He says contractors will be coming in town in the next few days to start tearing town what's left of the building.
According to Widener, Price Wise has already committed to staying in Williston, but it'll be up to the owner of the property to agree to rebuild.