Firefighters battling a more than 10,000-acre wildfire in northwest Greenville County say rain this week has been a welcome relief. But they warn it has not been enough to put the fire out and the resulting slick terrain has prevented crews from working firelines this week.
“It’s a mixed blessing,” State Forestry Commission spokesman Doug Wood said. “It’s certainly welcome, but it doesn’t allow the firefighters to go back on the lines to continue improving them.”
Wood said much of the rain hit the tree canopy, meaning only some of the water reached the undergrowth where the fire has been burning. Nevertheless, crews who were able to inspect lines on Wednesday believe the flames are staying inside those lines. The fire has burned roughly 10,560 acres as of Thursday afternoon and is 65 percent contained.
A flight later Thursday night will use infrared technology to detect remaining hotspots. Firefighters then expect to return back to the lines Friday to continue mop up efforts. They spent Thursday improving Table Rock State Park’s damaged trail system and cleaning up around a Wesleyan summer camp in Pickens County that they were able to protect last month.
Wood said crews are confident, but warned their fight is not yet over. “There are no guarantees of anything,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “This rain, while a positive development, has passed through the area. We had a cold front come through and we may see relative humidity plummet again. We may see winds increase.”
The burned-out area will be monitored for several weeks even after the fire is extinguished, to make sure not hotspots flare up again in the dry conditions.
No injuries or structural damage has been reported from the fire, which began more than three weeks ago from an escaped campfire. The agencies involved estimate they have spent nearly $4.7 million to fight the blaze so far. Pickens County has requested disaster relief funds from FEMA, which would reimburse 75 percent of those costs. It’s not clear whether the county or the state would shoulder the remaining share, although previous precedent indicates the state would likely end up paying.