On March 29, 2019, Piedmont’s Swanson Center for Performing Arts and Communications broke out in a devastating and unknown fire that killed 28 people. Seconds later a massive explosion near the theatre stage sent everyone in the building into a state of chaos calling for help.
The call came into the 911 Habersham center at around 10 a.m. and reported the fire and multiple injuries to Habersham EMA Director Lynne Smith.
“As things progressed we were requesting additional units, the coroner and mobile morgue,” said Smith.
Piedmont Police Chief Jim Andrews said agencies showing up at the scene of the disaster included the Cities of Demorest and Cornelia fire and police departments, Habersham County EMS and Medical Center, Sheriff’s Office, Habersham County Fire department, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, Homeland security, 911/Emergency Management Agency, Habersham Search and Rescue and the District Two Public Health Administration. A helicopter, drones and rescue dogs also were at the scene searching for victims.
Local EMS ran into the buildings saving some of the victims and brought them to the medic station for immediate medical attention. Smoke was seen billowing from the Swanson Center by onlookers and the fire wouldn’t seem to give out.
“It took a lot to put out the fire, and there were over a hundred total victims injured in the fire,” said, Jason Davey, the assistant fire chief for Habersham County.
Rob Moore, the Public information officer for Campus Police, said, “there were 28 confirmed fatalities, and the bodies had to be removed from the building due to the severity of the fire.”
Everyone at the scene is in disbelief at what happened to one of the safest colleges in Georgia.
“At this moment, it is way to early to determine the cause of the fire and state fire investigators are in route to find out what really happened at the Swanson center.” Said Moore.