MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) – As more people take to the outdoors for the holiday, first responders prepare for what could be a busy weekend during the current burn ban.
Horry County was put under a burn ban in April, as much of the News13 viewing area is in a moderate drought stage.
The director of communications for the South Carolina Forestry Commission, Doug Wood, said that because Horry County issued the ban, the forestry commission doesn’t issue citations, which falls under the county’s jurisdiction.
Wood said that last fiscal year was less busy than the traditional one, but the agency still recorded more than 1,000 fires. The typical average is about 1,700 fires a year, with more than 6,000 acres burned.
Wood said 98% of wildfires in South Carolina are human-caused, with half of those fires starting because of escaped debris.
“If you are going to burn outdoors, notify the forestry commission, have the tools and please don’t let the fire go and completely put it out,” he said.
In Myrtle Beach, fire leaders said cigarettes are often the cause of brush fires. Fireworks — which are illegal inside the city — are also a big concern.
“Every year we get dunes fires and different things along the beach where people were shooting them off and it causes more of a hindrance than anything,” Captain Jonathan Evans with Myrtle Beach Fire Rescue said.
In a recent public safety meeting, Horry County Fire Rescue Chief Joseph Tanner said he believes wildfires are, “One of the greatest hazards in all of Horry County.”
Tanner proposed adding a wildland fire coordinator to the department.
“We had a one-hundred-acre fire up in the Longs area,” he said. “It started out very, very small, but it spread 100 acres very, very quickly. We need someone there to manage that for us on a day-to-day basis.”
Evans is asking the public to be mindful of the burn ban and drought so the department can focus on different calls.
“Be safer about the smoking, fireworks and all that kind of stuff,” he said. “It just helps us focus on other calls. It’s sometimes hard for us to get our equipment out there to do what we need to do. So, just help us out by being a little more cautious this weekend.”