Communities more Firewise, 3 years after Barefoot fire

Picture of the 2009 Horry County Wild Fire

It's been three years since 70 homes in Barefoot Resort were in ashes from the most damaging wildfire in South Carolina history.

Today, that North Myrtle Beach community is more attuned to the danger of wildfires and state forestry officials are hoping other communities are becoming equally aware.

Barry Tooker and his wife were among those who lost their homes in the Barefoot Resort fire. They quickly rebuilt, but their new home and others in their neighborhood are different than the old ones.

Mulch or decorative stones have replaced pine straw around most houses and the Tookers' new home has brick siding instead of vinyl..

"I think that it's stronger, it's better than it was, and I think that that gives us peace of mind," Tooker said.

At Walker's Woods, a subdivision often threatened by woods fires, homeowners regularly get together now for "chipping days", a group effort to make people more Firewise.

"They have come together as a community and trimmed their shrubbery, replace some of the more flammable mulch with less flammable, trimmed up their tree limbs on their trees in their yard," said Mike Bozzo of the South Carolina Forestry Commission.

Bozzo said getting rid of dry, flammable pine straw around homes is a big step. Shredded hardwood or cypress mulches hold more moisture and require more heat to start a fire.

Allowing more space between homes and woods can make a difference, too, along with the new fuel break to rid the woods of thick underbrush that can feed a wildfire.

None of them are big steps, but Bozzo said they make a difference.

"They seem like simple things but if you have them in place, then it increases the chance of your home surviving a wildfire."

The new fuel break in Walker's Woods is only about 30 feet wide. Bozzo said he would prefer 60 to 100 feet, but he says it's a start and it gets people to buy into what forestry is trying to do. He said they may be able to expand it in the future.