Firsthand accounts of Park Terrace Hotel fire, 1968

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Park Terrace Hotel on fire, 1968

After six decades in operation, the Park Terrace Hotel, a grand old edifice on the corner of Main and Orange Street in downtown Darlington, burned down on the day before Thanksgiving in 1968. There were a total of twenty-one guests at the time of the fire, and four of them were killed: Marion Butler, Keith Windham, Buck Shaw, and Mike Jamerson.  Below are firsthand accounts of the heroism fire and rescue squad members displayed in order to save lives; the quotes were originally published in The State and the Columbia Record on Sunday, December 1, 1968.

Fireman and rescue squad member Harry Sawyer, 28: “I could hear screams. ‘The flames are burning me up, get me out of here.’ Another yelled, from the fourth floor, ‘I’m gonna jump.’ Somebody got a ladder and got him down. Then somebody told me Mr. Butler (the hotel’s owner) was trapped on the first floor. Another fireman, I can’t remember who, said he would help me get Mr. Butler. . .This thing is something we were dreading. . . A lot of men put in a hell of a lot of hours on Wednesday and Thanksgiving to help us. . .They risked their lives to help us. I think we did a hell of a good job.”

Frank Wells, mayor of Darlington and a member of the rescue squad: “There’s no telling how many would have burned if it hadn’t been for them. . .It’s men like Jim Stone (a fireman) and Lyndal Gainey (Captain of the rescue squad) that did a great job. . .They didn’t slow down until they got those bodies. It makes you real proud to be a part of a town where people do these things unselfishly. ” 

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