So far, 86 homes have been evacuated Thursday near Table Rock State Park as firefighters plan to set a large intentional burnout around the mountain in an effort to contain a growing wildfire there.
The more than 3,600-acre fire started on nearby Pinnacle Mountain last week, but has spread to the north and east, where the rough terrain has prevented crews from establishing firebreaks. Now crews plan to set controlled fires along the north and south faces of Table Rock to remove potential fuel from the wildfire’s path. However, the resulting blaze will burn across most of the remaining unaffected areas of the popular park.
Much of the burning operation will be ignited by a helicopter dropping “ping-pong balls” that ignite upon hitting the forest floor. This additional burnout area will encompass both sides of Table Rock and extend north to the Table Rock Reservoir, south to the Pinnacle Lake area, and east to the park boundary near High Low Gap.
Additional resources, such as bulldozers, fire trucks and fire crews with hand tools, are on the wildfire today to keep the fire within established firelines. To this point, the fire has remained on uninhabited public lands and has not damaged any structures.
“The main reason for the burnout is to handle the fire on our terms,” State Forestry Commission spokesman Russell Hubright told South Carolina Radio Network. But the resulting damage will likely affect more than 2,000 acres of additional land, he added.
Homes are being evacuated along the roads to the immediate south and east of Table Rock. The evacuation will consist of homes north of SC Highway 11, from Back Park Road north to South Saluda Road, then along South Saluda up to the Table Rock Reservoir.
Hubright said firefighters have contained 35 percent of the wildfire so far and need this burn to set a perimeter around much of the rest. “If we can get those areas secured and burned off the firelines, then we will be much closer to having this thing contained,” he said.
The commission blames an escaped campfire and exceptionally dry conditions for sparking the fire, which is now the Upstate’s largest for at least 40 years and has caused the most damage for any South Carolina wildfire since a 2009 blaze burned 19,000 acres and destroyed 76 homes west of Myrtle Beach.