Agency warns high chance of brushfires over next few months

The South Carolina Forestry Commission says their crews contained or controlled 62 fires across the state Monday and it's just the beginning. The end of January through early April is the highest time of year in South Carolina for fires. Wildfires burn 20-30 homes in the state every year, and hundreds more are threatened each fire season.

"Communities are coming up right along the forest and it could be dangerous, " Scott Hawkins, Public Information Director with the South Carolina Forestry Commission says.

Monday, crews from the Forestry Commission were fighting 12 fires in Horry County and beyond. The biggest problem, other than destroyed acreage, is when a brush fire encroaches on surrounding property.

Two boats, nine vehicles, and several structures were destroyed as well as scores of acres of land in fires across Horry County Monday. Several fires, including one off Highway 905 in Conway and another in the Socastee area all but exhausted the resources of Horry County Fire Rescue.

South Carolina does not use a uniform fire reporting system, so there are no complete statistics on fire occurrence or fire causes. The forestry commission says the main causes are typically burning debris and woods arson. Burning debris that gets out of hand because of dry air and wind accounts for 25-45 percent of wildfires.

Wind and relative humidity equal ideal weather conditions, Hawkins says. When the air is dry, it absorbs moisture from the fuels in the forest making them more flammable.

"Days like this are a perfect example," Hawkins said Monday afternoon.

Usually the highest number of fires occur in late winter and early spring (January through mid-April). March is frequently the busiest month for firefighters, but some of the largest fires have occurred during the first two weeks of April. South Carolina's fire season is in the winter because most vegetation is dead or dormant during that time. Fires do not start or spread as quickly when vegetation is green.

The largest fire on record was in Horry County in 1976. 30,000 acres burned before the blaze was controlled.