Five years after Barefoot fire, officials say they're better prepared today

The wildfire that swept through Barefoot Resort five years ago Tuesday is burned in the memories of those who lived through it.

Today, If you look closely, you might find an occasional charred tree, but that's about the only remaining sign of the fire in the North Myrtle Beach community that SC forestry officials call the state's most destructive ever.

It left 76 homes destroyed, 97 others damaged and 19,000 acres burned.

Barefoot homeowner Kevin Quinn remembers it well.

"All of these houses were completely engulfed in flames, they all went," Quinn said, pointing to a line of homes behind his house on Mossy Oaks Drive.

Quinn did not evacuate on the night of the fire. He grabbed his garden hose and soaked his house.

"We stayed here through the night, putting out the house. My neighbor's house caught fire a couple of times, we ran over and put that out, and it was a pretty scary evening."

Quinn says he and his wife purposely bought a home a few miles away from the ocean because they thought it would be safer - from hurricanes.

Staying behind to hose down a house during a wildfire is not what North Myrtle Beach fire officials recommend. They say it's remarkable everyone got out safely that night in 2009.

"The 2,000-plus people that evacuated out of here and nobody lost their lives and no injuries, that's amazing," said North Myrtle Beach fire chief Tom Barstow.

After the fire, Barstow says the city gave its firefighters more wildfire training and purchased more wildfire fighting equipment.

The South Carolina Forestry Commission updated its gear, too. That includes new bulldozers that are better able to quickly dig a wildfire break.

"Having bigger dozers or more comfortable, more economical, more efficient dozers that provide better safety would have made it easier to do a better initial attack (in the Barefoot fire)," said Darryl Jones, SC Forestry Protection Chief.

Jones says Forestry is also doing more to engage with homeowners in wooded areas, because that kind of wildfire can happen again.

"We want them to be better able to survive a wildfire, and that takes education and just kind of constantly work with them, to make sure they understand."

Since 2009, Forestry has purchased 36 new bulldozers, including one dedicated to Horry County.