Community devastated by wildfire, on alert

The April 2009 wildfire, just minutes after it got out of control on Woodlawn Drive in Horry County.

The worst of the wildfire threat is over. The state Forestry Commission lifted its red flag alert for our area on Tuesday.

That's little comfort for folks in one Grand Strand community that was devastated by a wildfire two years ago.

On Saturday, a small wildfire blackened a few backyards, damaged siding on a house, and burned some brush on a golf course. It was nothing like the April 2009 wildfire that destroyed 70 homes in the Barefoot Community community of North Myrtle Beach.

But it was enough to alarm folks living there, like Jeanne Kenny. "I think all of our neighbors are so in tune to it." Kenny wasn't home when Saturday's brush fire started, but she knows how it ended. She says a quick-acting neighbor spotted the fire, called 9-1-1 and used a garden hose to keep the flames from spreading until firefighters arrived.

Kenny says, it shows how her neighbors are on constant alert. "When there's a smell of smoke, we're out looking, we're searching, we're notifying neighbors. Very, very cautious now."

Jared Taylor rents the home that was damaged by the fire. when he got the call that his backyard was burning, he felt flashbacks to two years ago. "All I could think about was, man, this just happened it seemed like just yesterday."

Taylor appreciates his quick-thinking neighbors with garden hoses. "I think that everybody is a little more apt to react this time."

But after dodging a second wildfire, it's opened his eyes about taking his own precautions. "I guess I need to figure out what I, how I need to better prepare for this stuff."

The man who hosed-down the fire happens to be married to the neighborhood watch block captain. The watch program was around before the 2009 wildfire, but it has new meaning now, said Kenny. "We need to watch out for one another, whether it's fires or theft or whatever."

The cause of Saturday's fire has not been determined, though city officials believe it may have started from residents burning yard debris.

Because of the fire two years ago, North Myrtle Beach has banned all outdoor burning.

The Forestry Commission responded to more than 300 fires statewide, during the four days the Red Flag Alert was in effect. Forestry officials are still urging people to avoid outdoor burning.