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Mayor says cigarette started Georgetown fire, asbestos pauses clean-up

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GEORGETOWN, S.C. (WCIV) – Georgetown's mayor says a cigarette tossed into a trash can behind one of the Front Street businesses started the fire that destroyed most of a block along the historic roadway.

And now officials are saying clean-up is on hold because a special asbestos crew has to come in to safely remove the toxic insulation material.

The news of the clean-up delay and the cause of the fire came as Gov. Nikki Haley told a crown of people that Georgetown would not be receiving any federal funding to rebuild from FEMA.

The governor says her office is coming up with an ad campaign that will cost $20,000 and focus on tourism in Georgetown. During the recovery update, Fire Chief Joey Tanner said they are still waiting for a preliminary report on the cause of the fire.

However, Georgetown Mayor Jack Scoville says he believes the fire was caused by a cigarette in a trash bag. Tanner says there were early reports the fire started in a trash can, but he is still waiting on a preliminary report, which is expected to be released next week.

Scoville adds that asbestos was found in the debris and is holding up the clean-up process.

"Some minute particles of asbestos were located in various areas of the site. I think they are coming from some caulking in one of the buildings and possibly from some roofing material that was put up," he said.

Scoville says they will continue to work with the Department of Health and Environmental Control on sampling the debris and planning the clean-up.

"DHEC says until we get this resolved, the workers can't clean the lots," he said.

Scoville expects the testing to continue and he hopes DHEC will be finished by the end of the week.

Meanwhile, city officials are trying to decide who will clean up the debris. Ideas include the National Guard or private contractors.

The fire started late last month and destroyed 10 buildings and seven homes, displacing 130 employees.

The Georgetown Fire Relief Fund has been set up for donations through First Citizens Bank on Front Street.

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