For the first time in several years Columbia-Richland firefighters faced a 3-Alarm fire when flames overtook and consumed much of the historic Babcock Building on Saturday morning, September 12, 2020.
The building, which sits on the Bull Street development in Columbia, was originally erected in the 1800s and for years was a part of the South Carolina Department of Mental Health. Much of the central section of the building was left heavily damaged by the fire. The building’s iconic dome also came crashing down after becoming engulfed by the flames. Several other collapses in the building also occurred as the fire spread from floor to floor of the structure.
Fire crews initially responded to the building sometime after 6:30 a.m. Saturday morning after getting reports of a smell of smoke in the air. When the first engine crew arrived on scene heavy fire cold be seen coming from the basement area.
Conditions would only worsen and by the time additional crews arrived heavy fire was spreading throughout the building. This prompted leaders on scene to call for a 3-Alarm response. More than 50 CRFD personnel became involved in the operation and resources were realigned to maintain fire coverage throughout the city and Richland County. The Fort Jackson Fire Department also provided support during the operation.
Multiple crews would remain on the Bull Street development throughout the day Saturday working to bring the fire under control. By Saturday evening firefighters were finally able to get the flames under control. During the operation two CRFD firefighters suffered minor injuries due to falling debris.
CRFD and the Columbia Police Department are currently investigating the fire with the assistance of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.