South Carolina forestry officials have significantly expanded an outdoor burn ban to an additional 11 counties, as dry conditions across the Appalachian Mountains continue to create ripe conditions for wildfires.
The state Forestry Commission (SCFC) expanded the ban Thursday from five Upstate counties to all Piedmont counties, starting at 6 p.m. Previously, only the furthest north counties of Anderson, Greenville, Oconee, Pickens and Spartanburg were affected by an initial ban Wednesday. However, SCFC officials expanded the ban a day later to include Abbeville, Cherokee, Chester, Edgefield, Fairfield, Greenwood, Laurens, Lexington, McCormick, Newberry, Richland, Saluda, Spartanburg, Union and York.
State Forester Gene Kodama said weather conditions in the Piedmont region present an elevated risk of wildfire, particularly an ongoing drought that has become severe in much of the Upstate. The National Weather Service reports most of the Piedmont has not recorded a measurable rainfall for more than a month.
A fast-growing wildfire in Table Rock State Park near the North Carolina border is also drawing firefighter resources away from other regions of the state. The Forestry Commission says the fire quickly expanded from 15 acres on Wednesday to 250 acres by Thursday evening, largely due to these same weather conditions. The agency is sending extra firefighters to the area in addition to deploying its Type II Incident Management Team.
State Forester’s Burning Bans prohibit outdoor burning, such as yard debris burns and controlled burns for timber, wildlife or agricultural purposes. Campfires and open-fire cooking are still allowed, but the Forestry Commission is strongly encouraging citizens in the five initial counties not to start the fires unless necessary.