Devastating Fire Destroys Iconic UFO Welcome Center in South Carolina

A devastating fire destroyed the UFO Welcome Center, a 30-year-old tourist attraction in Bowman, South Carolina, and also claimed the home of its owner, Jody Pendarvis. Authorities have ruled out foul play, but the exact origin of the fire remains unknown.

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Devastating Fire Destroys Iconic UFO Welcome Center in South Carolina

Devastating Fire Destroys Iconic UFO Welcome Center in South Carolina

A devastating fire has destroyed the UFO Welcome Center, a beloved 30-year-old tourist attraction in Bowman, South Carolina. The blaze, which occurred on Thursday morning, also claimed the home of Jody Pendarvis, the center's owner and creator, who lived adjacent to the site at 4004 Homestead Road.

The UFO Welcome Center, an iconic structure standing at 42 feet tall and 48 feet wide, was constructed from wood and metal sheets. Pendarvis, who built the center in 1994 as a hobby, eventually transformed it into a popular tourist destination. "Everything's gone," Pendarvis lamented, "The UFO, my home, my clothes."

Authorities have ruled out foul play as the cause of the fire, but the exact origin remains unknown. Orangeburg County Fire District Director Teddy Wolfe noted that the structure's lack of adherence to fire code standards likely contributed to the rapid spread of the flames. "This structure was not built to any fire code standard, which likely contributed to the quick flame spread throughout the structure and subsequently the mobile home."

The loss of the UFO Welcome Center has left the Bowman community in shock. Mayor Patsy Rhett described the incident as "shocking", emphasizing the center's role as a staple for visitors traveling through the area. Lifelong Bowman resident John Smith fondly recalled, "I used to pay a dollar and fifty cents to go in the UFO and look around."

Pendarvis, who claims to have seen one or two UFOs near Orangeburg in 1996, initially built the center using materials from his grandfather's shop, which was torn down to make way for a gas station. Over the years, the UFO Welcome Center attracted visitors from around the world, with Pendarvis keeping a guest register that boasted over 3,000 signatures. The register, now housed in the Bowman museum, serves as a testament to the center's global appeal.

The destruction of the UFO Welcome Center marks the end of an era for Bowman and its residents. Pendarvis, who has lost his home and possessions in addition to the iconic structure, remains determined to move forward. As the community grapples with the loss of this beloved landmark, the memories and stories surrounding the UFO Welcome Center will undoubtedly live on, cementing its place in South Carolina's rich tapestry of unique attractions.

Key Takeaways

  • A devastating fire destroyed the UFO Welcome Center in Bowman, South Carolina.
  • The 30-year-old tourist attraction was built by Jody Pendarvis in 1994.
  • The fire also claimed Pendarvis' home and possessions.
  • Authorities ruled out foul play, but the exact cause of the fire remains unknown.
  • The center's destruction marks the end of an era for Bowman and its residents.