UPDATE: Wildfire 98% contained, burning ban lifted

Update: 12:49 p.m. Monday

The SC Forestry Commission says the wildfire is now 98% contained, and it has lifted the statewide burning ban. Forestry Commission authorities explained that as resources are released from the fire near Myrtle Beach, the agency's ability to respond to wildfires across the state will return to a pre-incident level.

Officials warned, however, that citizens need to remain vigilant for wildfires, since forest fuels are dry and wildfire danger is relatively high.

The commission warns that there is potential for reburn on this fire. After a fire burns an area, trees drop their brown leaves and needles leaving a fresh layer of fuel on the ground. Sparks from smoldering material can ignite this fuel and cause a fire to reburn through the already burned area. These fires can be quite intense and have the potential to jump established control lines. Fire crews continue to identify these areas and strengthen control lines where needed.

The commission estimates the total acreage burned 19,600 acres.

Hot spots continue to burn in the Long Bay/Hwy 31 area and around the fire origin. Water will be used today to cool these areas. This will be a cooperative effort between the SC Forestry Commission (SCFC) and Horry County Fire Rescue.

Overnight SCFC crews worked closely with Horry County Fire Rescue patrolling and reinforcing plowed control lines.

The SCFC has begun reducing the number of personnel on the fire. 20 people have been released thus far and 11 more are scheduled to leave this afternoon.

Today (all divisions) - crews will continue to mop up, patrol and reinforce control lines.

Divisions C and D - crews are focusing on securing houses by reinforcing plow lines behind houses in case of a re-burn.

Poor visibility in the area due to smoke and morning fog is expected to continue for some time.

Stump holes, snags, operation of heavy equipment, helicopter drops and smoke still pose many dangers for residents venturing into the fire area. Fire managers continue to encourage people to stay out of the burned area.

Statewide Burning Ban remains in effect.

Saturday, Horry County and the City of North Myrtle Beach released updated numbers on destroyed and damaged homes after the most recent assessment:

-75 homes are a total loss, 70 of which are in North Myrtle Beach and 5 in the unincorporated parts of Horry County

-88 homes are damaged in North Myrtle Beach

-8 homes damaged in Horry County

The Forestry Commission added that other than the possible hint of smoke and occasional traffic delays, North Myrtle Beach should be considered completely safe for those planning to visit for business or pleasure.