Campers usually try to “leave no trace,” but sometimes losing sight of campfire can leave several acres of forest burned in a wildfire.
A new law signed into the books last week by Gov. Henry McMaster allows the South Carolina Forestry Commission to prohibit bonfires and campfires when the department issues statewide burning bans. Forestry Commission spokesman Doug Wood emphasized the law would not have prevented the 11,000-acre Pinnacle Mountain Fire — since a burn ban ordered at the time came almost simultaneously with the fire’s start — but commission officials hope this law would help prevent fires like the one at Pinnacle.
“They didn’t have a way to prohibit campfires,” said State Rep. Mike Burns, R-Taylors, who sponsored the bill that recently became law. “With 11,000 acres burning, if you wanted to go up and have a recreational campfire, they couldn’t tell you not to do it.”
Forestry Commission Fire Marshal Darryl Jones says that adding campfires and bonfires to banned burn list will expand his department’s ability to fight fires that are permitted but get out of control.
“About half, 49 percent or so, of the wildfires we go to are escaped legal fires where people burn their leaves or those kind of things and they turn their backs for a minute,” said Jones. “Nobody wants to start a fire and burn down 10,000 acres of woods or a bunch of homes.”
Fire season in South Carolina runs all year so Jones said that people should look out for fire warnings on windy days when it has not rained in a while.
“In those conditions it makes it easier for a fire to start,” said Jones. “The farther you are away from the roads in the remote areas where people like to camp, the more difficult it is in most cases to stop a wildfire.”
The Forestry Commission said that the new law won’t likely disrupt summer camping plans as large scale burning bans, like the ones that would prohibit campfires, have only been issued five times in the last twelve years.