The wildfire in Horry County that burned nearly 20-thousand acres and caused more than $20 million in damages during the last week of April still has not been completely tamed.
A crew of eight firefighters from the State Forestry Commission is keeping a watchful eye over several smoldering areas. Horry County Fire Rescue Chief Garry Alderman says those areas still being watched have not been burned off in a long time and they have a lot of unspent fuel that could cause a flare up.”There’s a lot of moss that formulates from the trees’ droppings for many, many years and what happened is the fire was so hot on the ground that its burning some paths underground in the moss.”
Alderman says the one inch of rain that fell on the area Monday did help but another two t0 three inches are needed to completely extinguish the fire that started April 22nd. 76 homes were destroyed and 96 were damaged by the blaze.
Alderman says some of the trees that were initially burned in the fire are still providing fuel for the embers still smoldering. “A lot of these pine trees that didn’t completely burn, the needles are dead on them and the needles are falling left and right on them, so you’re having a lot of brown unburned needles falling on top on this area that has already been burned. If they start falling in a smoldering area they will actually create some active fire.”
Alderman says he has personnel available should the Forestry Commission need help or if a smoke investigation is necessary.
Alderman says his crew was completely exhausted after long days of fighting the wildfire, however he says there is no rest for the weary as his crew gears up for its next challenge, the Harley-Davidson Bike Week. “We’re not going to get much rest in between the wildfires and now going into the Harley Davidson Bike Week. You go from a fire mode to more of an EMS mode with auto accidents and motorcycle accidents starting Friday.”
With the rapid growth of residential areas near wooded areas in South Carolina, State Forestry Commission spokesman Scott Hawkins says the wildfire in Horry County is going to be used as a “textbook case.”
“We’re calling this the first real “WUI” (pronounced, whooee) fire, and WUI is an acronym for wild land-urban interface. It is a major component of forestry these days because of development. We are looking at this as being a very important learning experience in terms of the WUI effort of ours and other agencies.”