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Cause of Rock Hill fire that hurt 2 firefighters might never be known

aburriss@heraldonline.com

Fire investigators are still looking into what caused Monday afternoon’s fire and reports of explosions at a home west of Rock Hill that left two firefighters injured – but they might never find a cause because of the severity of the fire that destroyed the house.

The fire, which was reported shortly after 4 p.m., “does not appear to be suspicious in origin at this time,” said Charles Williamson, fire investigator for the York County Fire Marshal’s Office.

Newport firefighters Joseph Volk and Rich Diamanti both suffered leg injuries, York County Fire Safety Director Billy Weatherford said. Diamanti was in good condition Tuesday at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, while Volk was recovering after surgery at Piedmont Medical Center in Rock Hill, according to fire and hospital officials.

Investigators confirmed Tuesday that the fire started in the attached garage of the home, which housed the family business that serviced petroleum products for convenience stores. However, the heat of the fire and the amount of damage could mean that finding a cause will be difficult, Williamson said.

“There is less to look at to make a (determination on) cause,” Williamson said.

The two firefighters were hurt when the house’s southern wall collapsed and fell on them, Williamson said, but investigators have not been able to determine whether there was an explosion inside the garage or home that caused the wall to fail. Investigators do not believe the wall was knocked over, he said, but the heat and pressure from the fire could have caused it to fall.

The water heater, installed within the past year, has not been ruled out as a cause of the fire, he said.

The sounds that neighbors described as explosions could have been aerosol cans, a lawn mower, the water heater or other items in the garage or house that might have burst during the fire, Williamson said. There were “very little” petroleum products in the garage, he said.

State and federal investigators are helping with the probe, Williamson and Weatherford said, but only to assist in finding a cause and not because there is a criminal investigation under way.

The bulk of Newport’s firefighters are volunteers, but the station has paid firefighters from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, said Assistant Chief Mark Bollinger. Both Volk and Diamanti were on paid duty at the time they were hurt.

Worker’s compensation insurance typically covers medical expenses for firefighters injured while on duty, said Joe Palmer, executive director of the South Carolina State Firefighters Association. The group sent a team to York County Monday night and Tuesday to meet with the injured firefighters, their families and other responders who helped with the injured.

York County and Chester County firefighters from several departments pitched in late Monday and Tuesday to cover Newport’s calls.

Jimmy King and his adult son, Andrew, live at the home at 1160 Volunteer Drive, near the intersection of S.C. 5 and Tirzah Road. It is unclear if the family needed a business license to operate there, Williamson said, and county officials did not know a business was being run there until Monday’s fire.

Teresa King, Andrew King’s mother, said Tuesday the family’s concern is for the firefighters who were hurt. The Kings thanked them again for responding to the fire.

“The firefighters are very brave and have a very tough job,” she said.

The family dog, Jill, a Jack Russell terrier, survived the fire after running out of the burning house and later being treated for burns by a veterinarian. Jill previously had survived a theft attempt and being hit by a school bus, Jimmy King said.

Andrew Dys •  803-329-4065

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