SC Forestry Commission warns against use of pine straw in yards as a fire hazard

Grand Strand

Authorities say embers falling on pine straw up against houses in Barefoot Resort helped to jumpstart the Highway 31 fire ten years ago Monday.

No lives were lost, but the fire destroyed 76 homes, and burned more than 19,000 acres.

The South Carolina Forestry Commission conducted an investigation soon after the fire in 2009, and learned mulch could be a better option for homes in an area where fire is a hazard.

“The homes were standing, but not all of them, but a lot of them, had mulch instead of pine straw,” said Drake Carroll, the Firewise and prevention coordinator for the SC Forestry Commission.

Although pine straw is cheaper at $5.25 a bail at Evergreen Nursery and Landscaping in Myrtle Beach, other options like mulch and rocks don’t ignite.

“This mulch, because it holds a lot more moisture and it’s larger particles, we actually saw that there were little tiny holes where the embers landed and burned straight down into mineral soil and extinguished themselves, and never actually ignited,” said Carroll.

Even though the investigation found mulch didn’t ignite, the Firewise program still suggests you choose other options.

Aside from landscaping choices, as part of their “Home Ignition Zone Checklist,” Firewise suggests that you clean gutters of debris, dead leaves and pine needles to minimize the chance they could catch embers. 

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