A man escaped from a tanning bed Monday afternoon as it burst into flames, sparking a fire that evacuated a Lake Wylie shopping center and damaged several stores, authorities said.
No one, including the man in the bed, was hurt, but several stores in the Bethel Commons strip mall off S.C. 274 and S.C. 49 suffered smoke damage that will likely keep them closed most of the week, said Bethel Fire Chief Don Love.
Authorities are investigating what ignited the bed at Ultratan.
The man who escaped declined to give his name but said he was working on his tan when he heard a popping noise then saw a flame at the corner of the bed near his foot.
He said he threw open the lid and jumped out.
When firefighters arrived around 4:15 p.m. “smoke was pouring out of all sides of the building,” said Bethel Assistant Fire Chief David Long. “That’s when I started hollering for more man power.”
Paramedics, Sheriff’s deputies and several dozen firefighters from three volunteer fire departments arrived.
By 5:30 p.m. the fire was out and smoke cleared. The air smelled of scorched plastic. Ultratan was badly burned; its windows soot black. The faulty tanning bed’s mangled and charred carcass rested on the floor near the entrance.
Shop owners and employees huddled together in the parking lot.
“We’re waiting to go into our store and assess the damage,” said Muhammad Khanani, owner of The Cleaners.
"We’ve lost a lot of food … a lot of business,” said Melissa Nguyen, manager of the Subway sandwich shop three doors down from Ultratan. “We’re hoping to be able to get in and shut the store down the right way.”
Meanwhile, shoppers bustled in and out of Food Lion, the only one of center’s six stores to remain open.
“It could’ve been a lot worse,” Long said. “This was a good save.”