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Simon Catoe juggled emotional attachment and job duties as he responded to his first-ever fire, which happened to be the blaze at his family's business early Saturday morning.
Catoe, 18, who just completed the fire academy last month, was in Myrtle Beach with his dad, Marvin, when they got the call about the fire at Catoe's Heating, Cooling, Plumbing and Wiring on S.C. 9.
When they arrived at the business two hours later, the building was still engulfed in flames. Simon and Marvin Catoe suited up on the spot and joined their fellow Tradesville volunteer firefighters.
Simon Catoe said he couldn't believe his eyes.
"I kind of went into a denial stage," Simon Catoe said. "I knew that it was affecting my family more than me because they couldn't do anything to help at the time."
Simon's grandparents, Roy Charles and Dianne Catoe, started the heating, cooling, plumbing and wiring business in 1965. Renovations and additions were complete in 2000 that included a second floor, a new roof and more offices.
Several family members worked there on a regular basis. On Tuesday afternoon, many of them were cleaning up the area around the business and determining what items were salvageable from the fire.
One of the few items believed to be OK was a laptop used to store customers' contacts and other information. Most of the materials, though, such as plumbing supplies and sheet metal, were destroyed.
As Dianne Catoe walked around the building with residue from ashes and rubble on her clothes, she pondered what happened. She said an investigator told her the fire originated in a sewing room on the left side of the building.
She believes it was arson.
"I just think it was to find something valuable – just robbery," Dianne Catoe said. "I don't know who would want to come harm us."
Dianne Catoe's home is within 20 yards of the business and houses another one of their businesses – HomePlace Bed and Breakfast.
She's glad the flames didn't make their way to the house. Nobody was hurt in the fire.
"What bothers me is that it's that close to the house,"Dianne Catoe said. "There were six guests in the house and two more coming."
Dianne Catoe's granddaughter, Misty Brecht, who notified the family of the fire as she returned from the movies around midnight Saturday, said she and other family are thankful for all of the support they received that night. People in the community continue to provide prayers, food and financial support, she said.
"I feel like Satan meant this for evil but God's going to use this for good," Brecht said.
Dianne Catoe said the family hopes to rebuild the business within the year.
Boone family coping
The Catoe business was the second building to burn late Friday and early Saturday.
Robert and Wanda Boone's house on nearby Ben Massey Road was destroyed in a fire, which broke out before 11 p.m.
Robert Boone said on Tuesday that he and his wife are staying at a Lancaster motel for now. He expects both of them to return to work next week. Like the Catoes, they hope to rebuild in the future.
Lt. Christy Rogers of the Lancaster County Sheriff's Office said the agency continues to investigate the two fires and cannot confirm nor deny right now if they were arson, or if they are related.
No arrests have been made, she said.
"They (the fires) were suspicious enough to look into further," Rogers said. "We don't have enough information to say they're related."
Contact reporter Jesef Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (803) 283-1152