On June 14, a lighting strike ignited a forest fire that still lingers in Horry County. Six weeks later, SC Forestry Commission spokesman Scott Hawkins says the fire is contained, but just won’t go out.
From about July 6 on we’ve been out there on a daily basis. You’ve got heavily organic soil, and they just continue to burn and burn and burn, and then they compromise the root system of the trees, and this is a forested area. Then, the trees fall, and that’s fresh fuel, or the needles die and they fall onto the ground, and that’s fresh fuel. So, this is a persistent fire, it’s the kind that you just fight by just constantly turning the earth and putting whatever water you can put on it.
The fire, known as the “Hardwick Road” Fire, is closer to Conway, which doesn’t seem to affect tourist traffic heading to Myrtle Beach, says Hawkins.
This isn’t occurring anywhere near the tourism areas. Residents in the area have been living with this fire for over a month now. They know what’s going on, they know on foggy mornings it could smoke and the smoke could linger, so they’ve been dealing with it. They’ve been cooperating, they’ve helped us keep an eye on things when we’ve had fewer personnel on the scene.
Hawkins says the fire is nothing like the Horry County Wildfire from last year that cause $25 million in damage and made national headlines. But, he does say this year is a bit harder to more efficiently fight the fire due to budget cuts.
We’re very stretched. We’re calling in equipment from other forestry commission areas, outside of Horry County. Our personnel, who’s been on this fire, they can only work it for so long, especially in this heat, before they go off duty and we have to bring in fresh crews. So that compromises our response capability, our firefighting capacity in other areas. So, that’s the major concern: Because of budget cuts and the fact that our agency is so small now, our equipment isn’t being replaced on its usual replacement cycle.
Hawkins says they are keeping a very close eye on the fire, but they have no timeline on when the fire will be put out.
I don’t know when it will be put out. As our Forest Protection Chief said: ‘There’s no magic bullet for this one.’ We could really use a nice, steady tropical rain storm; perhaps, with little wind. But, it’s not expected to grow into a raging wildfire, or anything like that. I wouldn’t anticipate evacuations and that kind of thing.
The fire has affected 120 acres of mostly vegetation, with no structural damage. Hawkins says they are expecting the fire to stay contained.