South Carolina is seeing its worst wildfire in 33 years. As fire continues to spread through North Myrtle Beach, nearly 20,000 acres has been consumed in the area, with 40% contained; 69 homes have been destroyed and 100 homes damaged.
Staff and volunteers from all three SC chapters of The American Red Cross have been on the scene as well. There are three regional chapters across the state- Charleston, Columbia, and Greenville. The Lowcountry Chapter’s Executive Director, Louise Welch, is at one of the three shelters the Red Cross has opened to provide assistance, the House of Blues in North Myrtle Beach.
“You can see the smoke and last night when I was here, ah, you could feel the smoke in your lungs, so we’re close enough to feel some of the effects, you can see the smoke, but, of course, it’s safe here and that’s why we set up a shelter here,” says Welch.
Welch says this morning she attended a press conference with Horry County and she says the weather was a concern, with 25 miles per hour winds expected along the coast today and hotter temperatures expected. Welch says they are prepared to help in any way they can.
“There are no one in the shelters when the sun comes up, people are trying to get back in to see their houses. We’re doing a lot of mental health counseling right now because as people are allowed back in, what’s happening is they’re going in and finding out that their house is destroyed. The Red Cross has mental health counselors here at the House of Blues to talk and try and help these people through this difficult time,” says Welch.
Welch says when they sit down with these victims they focus on listening and consoling them.
“Believe it or not the American Red Cross makes everybody feel a lot better. We’re helping them, we help them, of course, right now with immediate disaster needs, we’re making sure they have a place to stay, making sure they have food and water, and we’re working with other partners and agencies in the community to help take care of their long-term needs,” says Welch.
Still, no injuries or fatalities have been reported.