In a heartwarming display of solidarity, the Charleston Firefighters Association rallied together on Sept. 21 at Mac’s on Daniel Island to support one of their own – Lee Worrell, a dedicated firefighter who lost his home to a devastating fire a month prior.
On Aug. 23, Worrell, an active Daniel Island-based firefighter for the Charleston Fire Department, found himself in the harrowing position of being on the other side of the smoke. Home alone, he woke up to popping sounds emanating from the adjacent bedroom. Within seconds, his smoke detector blared, and the hallway was engulfed in flames and smoke.
The fire consumed the house that had been in Worrell’s family for generations, leaving him with nothing but the clothes on his back and a few cherished family photos he managed to grab in the chaos.
The cause of the fire, according to the Williamsburg County Fire Department, remains undetermined, though Worrell believes it could have been an electrical issue. Built in 1958, the family home had never updated the electrical wiring.
Reflecting on the experience, Worrell, who is separated from his wife, shared that he had almost stayed at his wife’s house that night. “I’m kind of glad I went home now because if not, [the house] would have been completely burned to the dirt.”
Worrell says his family home was not salvageable and it will require it being torn down and built from scratch. Worrell also lost a home to fire in 1991.
Strikingly, the very colleagues Worrell fought fires with were the ones who responded to save him.
Stepping up in support, the Charleston Firefighters Association organized a fundraiser at Mac’s on Daniel Island. The event featured raffles and a silent auction, with 100 percent of the proceeds dedicated to helping Worrell and his family rebuild. Twenty-five percent of sales from both Mac’s locations were also contributed to the cause.
According to Mac’s owner Garret McNally, roughly $6,500 was raised to help Worrell and his family find temporary shelter, replace essential belongings and take steps toward finding a new place to call home. McNally added that District 99 SC House Rep. Mark Smith also pledged to donate another $1,000 on top of Mac’s raised funds.
John Bakerman, the secretary for Charleston Firefighters Association Local 61, further amplified the fundraising efforts by initiating a GoFundMe campaign for Worrell. The campaign has garnered substantial community support, raising $23,955 of its $25,000 goal so far.
Bakerman started the GoFundMe the day of the house fire, citing his funding experience as a union steward and lobbyist. “Lee immediately reached out to my contacts. It’s not easy for firefighters to reach out for help, but we are the protectors of our own. We are there through thick and thin. We are our brother’s keeper.”
Worrell expressed his gratitude for the community’s response. “I’m overwhelmed with the support of the people of Daniel Island and local fire department brothers and sisters. I don’t even know how to begin to thank everybody. I just can’t believe it.”
To continue the support of Worrell and his family, visit gofundme.com/f/SupportBigLeeCHS.