Fire that damaged 2 homes near Five Points owned by SC governor ‘suspicious,’ chief says

A Tuesday morning fire that damaged two homes near Five Points, both of which are owned by S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster, has been deemed suspicious by the fire chief and is under investigation by Columbia police and state agents.

The fire involved two homes on the 1700 block of Greene Street, according to Mike DeSumma, Columbia Fire Department spokesman. That’s located between the University of South Carolina campus and Five Points.

Crews were called to the scene just before 6:30 a.m., according to the fire department. The agency said around 7:45 a.m. that the fire is out but that it caused “significant” damage to the houses.

All occupants of the homes got out safely, according to the fire department. At least 12 people were displaced by the fire, which caused “hundreds of thousands” of dollars in damages, according to the fire department. Five people were in one house, and seven in the other.

Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins said the fire has been deemed “suspicious,” and that arson investigators from the State Law Enforcement Division are on the scene. They are working with a Columbia police arson team, the fire chief said. Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook also was on the scene Tuesday.

The fire department had 15 trucks and 48 firefighters on scene battling the blaze, Jenkins said.

Brian Symmes, spokesman for the governor, confirmed to The State that McMaster owns both homes.

“The governor is on the scene,” Symmes said shortly before 8 a.m. Tuesday. “The governor is thrilled that nobody was hurt or is in danger in any way.”

McMaster has spoken with Jenkins on scene and commended both fire and law enforcement for their “superior” response to the matter, Symmes said.

Symmes said McMaster was relieved that exams at USC are over and that the homes were not as full as they normally would have been.

Richland County tax records indicate that Peggy McMaster, the governor’s wife, has owned 1710 Green St. since August 1994 and 1716 Greene St. since November 1992.

In addition to the two houses burned in Tuesday’s fire, the McMasters own three other homes on that block: two on Greene Street and one on the 700 block of Henderson Street, tax records show.

Several USC buildings are located near the scene, but none were involved in the fire, university spokesman Jeff Stensland said.

The 1700 block of Greene Street is closed to traffic, according to the fire department. Motorists should find a detour. Police also have blocked off the intersections of Greene and Barnwell streets, and Devine and Barnwell streets.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.