Dozens of animals killed in Huntington Beach State Park Nature Center fire

MURRELLS INLET, SC - (WBTW)  Firefighters responded to a fire at Huntington Beach State Park Wednesday Morning.

They say it happened at the park's nature center and completely destroyed the building.  Midway Fire Chief Doug Eggiman said the call came in at 2:34am.

According to a press statement by Georgetown County Public Information Officer Jackie Broach, the investigation of the fire scene indicates the probable cause of the fire was a lightning strike.

News13 spoke to witnesses who were camping close by as the storm struck.

"In the middle of the night we heard this tremendous bolt of lightning, both my husband and I sat up in bed," said Judy Blanchfield.

Blanchfield was waken by the storm, but didn't think much more of it until Wednesday morning when she saw the aftermath.

"Looking through the trees and I'm seeing all these flashing lights that's how close it was," said Blanchfield.

Blanchfield had been sleeping as crews from Midway Fire Rescue, the city of Georgetown and Murrells Inlet responded to the fire, and was shocked when she woke up.

"The nature center is gone. Thank the lord it happened in the middle of the night and no human lives were lost," said Blanchfield.

But dozens of animals were killed, state park employees at the scene said fish, snakes and alligators were inside the three-story building.

Chief Eggiman said the center was engulfed in flames by the time firefighters arrived and doubts any could have survived.

"There would have been no sustainable life when they got on scene due to the fire volume and smoke volume as well," said Eggiman.

The building's close proximity to the salt marsh also had authorities monitoring run off and any potential pollution it might have carried into the ecosystem.

"There's no major evidence at this point and time, we all feel the copious amounts of water that we put on the fire, that was required to put out the fire that obviously created a large dilution factor," said Eggiman.

The damage was so extensive the building had to be torn down, so firefighters could put out hotspots that burned for hours.

All that was left behind was debris, and memories.

"Theres history, unbelievable history inside that center and its gone for good now. It's just so sad," said Blanchfield.

The park was closed Wednesday morning while workers cleaned up the mess.

Horry and Georgetown County crews assisted the efforts. No one was hurt.

Count on News13 for updates.

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