State firefighters: Prepare for wildfire season

The wildfire that burned 20,000 acres in Horry County last April was on the minds of firefighters with the State Forestry Commission today.

The fire started from a backyard trash fire that wasn't properly extinguished. It rekindled into the costliest wildfire in state history.

Thursday in Florence, the Forestry Commission demonstrated how to safely burn yard debris, in hopes of preventing future wildfire disasters.

Forester David Hodge says 40% of South Carolina wildfires are caused by burning yard debris. "The most common thing that we hear of is, 'Well, I just walked away for a minute,' or 'I was burning in my trash can and something blew up.'," said Hodge.

Hodge says you need to take the right precautions. "You need to have your fire cleared around down to mineral soil. You need to have your tools available to you, your shovel, rake, hose, waterhose." And, he says, never walk away from the fire and make sure it's completely out.

Hodge says pay close attention to the weather during wildfire season as well. From March through May humidity is the lowest and wind speeds are higher than normal.

"You know all the fuels are browned up, they don't contain as much moisture and it is more likely for a yard debris burn to become a wildfire," Hodge said. He adds that even when the ground is wet, hodge says fires can still spread. "Any light fuels can burn a matter of hours after a rain. You don't want to be out there with 10% humidity and 20 mph winds."

Hodge says if everyone follows the rules and their instincts, wildfires like the one in Horry County last April can be prevented.

And remember to contact your county forestry commission before you do any burning.