HEATH SPRINGS -- The house where police last week found the body of the man accused of fatally shooting Heath Springs bait and tackle store owner Ronnie William Cairnes Sr. is now a pile of charred rubble.
The early-morning fire Tuesday that destroyed the two-story house at 4884 Green Road is being investigated by officials from Lancaster and the State Law Enforcement Division.
"The fire is suspicious," said Tom Holland, staff attorney with Lancaster County Sheriff's Office. "Nobody lived in the house, and there was no power to it."
According to court documents, Darren Lee Winchester formerly owned the house. It entered foreclosure status on Feb. 22, and the case was disposed of on May 5, the document states.
The house also is the site where Winchester, 46, a week ago today held police at bay during a nearly six-hour standoff after he allegedly shot and killed 55-year-old Cairnes of Fort Lawn as he stood outside his bait and tackle store.
Before authorities had time to work the scene, Winchester fired at police and eventually wound up inside his former house. Police found Winchester on a floor in the house with a gunshot wound to his chest.
In the days that followed, the Cairnes and Winchester families held funerals and tried to put their lives back together.
On Tuesday, Cairnes' store reopened.
"Friends just stopped by and brought a drink," said Cairnes' sister, Linda Stegall. "This is overwhelming today."
Around 2 a.m. Tuesday, Thomas and Martha Walker of Cassatt traveled along S.C. 97 after a trip to Tennessee.
"We noticed the sky was just bright," Martha Walker said. "We came around the curve, and there was this house burning. It was an inferno."
The Walkers called for help, parked their car along the road and watched the fire, Martha Walker said.
"It was hot," she recalled. "The flames were up in the sky. There was not a soul around. I told my husband that I couldn't understand how a house could be burning that furiously and no one know it."
Fire officials from the Belltown and McDonald Green Volunteer Fire Departments battled the blaze and returned Tuesday afternoon to put out hot spots.
While the fire's origin was not determined Tuesday evening, damage to the house was estimated at $150,000, the report states.
Anyone with information about the fire is asked to call the Lancaster County Sheriff's Office at 803-283-4136.