South Carolina wildfire threat remains as severe drought continues

Grand Strand

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — Horry County has lifted its burn ban, but as dryer, winter weather arrives, the South Carolina Forestry Commission said the risk will be around for a while.

While the attention on wildfires is usually on the West Coast, Doug Wood with the South Carolina Forestry Commission said this is wildfire season for the south.

“As we move into the fall and into the winter, that’s when we see the uptick in wildfires in South Carolina, and it’s because of low humidity, dry weather, leaves on the ground,” Wood said.

News13 Chief Meteorologist Frank Johnson said it’s also due to the fact that there were no hurricanes in our area this year.

“Even though they’re horrible storms, they leave our woodlands, our swamps, our river lands filled with water all winter long,” Johnson said. “It takes a long time for that hurricane rain to go away. That squashes forest fires.”

Johnson said our area is in severe drought status.

“Our risk for wildfires will stay elevated till we get a lot of rain on a regular basis or things start to green up in the spring,” he said.

Wood said the forestry commission has already seen an uptick in fires this year compared with the 10-year average. In November, there were 174 wildfires in South Carolina. The 10-year average for the month is 99.

“We’ve almost doubled our wildfire total for the month of November this year, and that’s because of the dry conditions,” Wood said.

Wood said forest officials are responsible for wildfire suppression in South Carolina.

“While local fire departments, volunteer fire departments may be the first on scene in a local area, we’re the folks that come in with the heavy equipment: bulldozers, brush trucks,” he said.

The South Carolina Forestry Commission has an app from which wildfires in the area can be tracked.

As of 5 p.m. Friday, there was one active fire and three contained fires in the Pee Dee region.

“The No. 1 one cause for forest fires in South Carolina and the rest of the South is escaped debris burns, so that’s just people out picking up leaves, burning down trees, limbs, you name it.”

Wood said anyone planning to burn anything must contact the South Carolina Forestry Commission. A list of toll-free numbers for each county can be found here.

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