Hurricane Ian Causes Total Destruction of House, Garden City SC
I got a call on the morning of Oct 1st from Harriet saying her brother and sister-in-law, Joe and Martha’s, house had burned down and was wondering if I could look for some family jewelry. Included in the jewelry were pieces that belonged to Martha’s mother and Joe’s father’s class ring. Totally destroyed house fires are so difficult to search. Not only is there the personal shock of someone losing everything, but the shear difficulty of trying to find anything in all the rubble. I told Harriet to have Joe call me so I could get further details. Joe texted me later that afternoon saying, “hey Jim, this is Joe. My sister called you this am about helping me find some jewelry in the remains of my destroyed house. I have a good idea of where to look if you would like to call me when you arrive. I will send you some pics of the area. Thanks so much for your help!” We exchanged some more texts about what I was looking for. I also informed him that due to the heat factor, most, if not all, the jewelry would probably be melted. He fully understood and further advised me that there’d be a pass at the gate for me since this was a gated community. I contacted Matt Fry, TRF Myrtle Beach and asked him if he wanted to help, knowing that this was going to be a chore.
Sunday, I met Matt at his shop, and we headed out. Matt had heard the road we needed to take was closed so we’d have to make a few detours. Once we got in the area, detours were an understatement, it was a mess. The hurricane had pushed water and sand two blocks back from the beach. The road crews were working hard to get all the sand off the roads. I think it took them 4 days to get it done.
When we pulled up to where the house was, it was as I expected. It was a 1 story house that was on 12–15-foot stilts that had collapsed to the ground. The area we needed to search was the rear left side of the house, not a big area, but still overwhelming. The first task at hand was to clear as much metal as we could. Nails, mending plates, nail plates, bed springs, etc. I couldn’t find my big magnet before we left, but Matt had a makeshift magnet that helped clear most nails, but nowhere near all of them. Matt had his Minelab 30-30 detector, and I had my Equinox 800. Both of us were swinging the detectors and anything that rang up as a jewelry signal, we were putting in a big bucket. Problem was that we weren’t finding anything that wasn’t melted together with something else. After about 3.5 hours we were hot, dirty and pretty much exhausted so we called it a day. I had planned to go back the next day and finish up. Meanwhile, I had talked to Joe who told me that Martha had kept her jewelry in a couple of bags, which consisted of rings, bracelets, necklaces, pendants and a watch. Joe also mentioned that his father’s class ring, which he was given, should be in a particular area.
Monday, I showed up and started clearing the area again. I had found my big magnet and it was a Godsend. I ran the magnet through the area where Joe’s father’s ring was supposed to be and cleared more nails and plates. I did get a great signal in the area but other than what it rang up on the detector, there was no way I could definitively see or tell what the object was. Unfortunately, everything Matt and I found was melted beyond recognition.
Wednesday, I went back one more time to check the parameter (the soft sand) around the back side of the house. There was always a possibility the firemen might have blown something into the sand with the fire hoses. I did find a few more pieces, but think it was more junk, like aluminum, than anything else.
Saturday, I went through every piece, one by one, that we had found and started sorting it out by the various metals my detector was indicating it could be. I can’t say with absolute certainty everything we got was a piece of jewelry, nor can I say for sure that we got anything that was jewelry. I can say that we gave it our best effort and pray to God that we got some, if not all of their important treasures back. Luckily Joe has a best friend who is a jeweler that makes jewelry and maybe he’ll be able to melt this stuff back down and give a different look to their treasures.
Wednesday, Oct 12th, I was able to meet Joe in a parking lot to give him all the objects we had found. The picture of him shows him holding 5 separate bags. The bags were labeled with items containing possible yellow and white gold, silver, and a variety of other metals.
Matt – Thank you buddy, I know I can always count on you to lend a hand.
Joe and Martha – Thank you for trusting me to try and help find some of your lost treasures. I wish you only the best!