A light rain Sunday was not enough to stop a wildfire burning across Table Rock State Park near the North Carolina border, although it did significantly slow down the blaze that has spread to nearly 2,200 acres in Pickens County.
“There was some light rain, but it wasn’t enough to really extinguish the fire,” Russell Hubright of the South Carolina Forestry Commission said. “In fact, ironically, it kind of dampened some of the efforts to do some burnout operations on the western side of the fire.”
“Burnouts” are controlled burns set by firefighters that are meant to eliminate dry wood, leaves, and other material that could serve as fuel for the much larger blaze.
Hubright said the fire on Pinnacle Mountain was roughly 20 percent contained, as of Sunday evening. To this point, all of the damage has occurred inside the state park, as well as public land in the Jocassee Gorge Wilderness Area and the Greenville Watershed. Roughly 60 residents were evacuated Saturday from homes near the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway (SC Highway 11) south of the fire. However, those residents were able to return Sunday as fire crews became more confident their southern containment lines would hold.
Roughly 140 firefighters were working the blaze Sunday. Crews will spend Monday strengthening their firebreak lines to link up with the Table Rock Reservoir. Crews are also strengthening lines west of the mountain as they try to contain the fire so it stops upon reaching the South Saluda River. However, Hubright was not confident the weather conditions would be favorable for burnouts as firefighters try to slow the blaze before it reaches the lines.
The Pinnacle Mountain fire is the largest in South Carolina since a 2009 wildfire destroyed more than 19,000 acres and damaged 76 homes west of Myrtle Beach.