SC Forestry closes wildfire investigation

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Officials with the South Carolina Forestry Commission say they have closed an investigation into who could be responsible for April's Horry County wildfire that destroyed nearly 19,000 acres of land.

Scott Hawkins, spokesman with the South Carolina Forestry Commission, says his department's investigation has been handed over to the South Carolina court system.

The SCFC originally issued two tickets to Mike Torchi, of Conway, in connection to the wildfire.  Investigators say Torchi had been burning household garbage on April 18, and strong winds allowed the "extinguished" fire to rekindle.

In a press release issued by the SCFC, investigators used fire spread indicators to trace the origin of the Horry County wildfire back an area near Torchi's home on Woodlawn Drive.

"It [was] everywhere. Everyone thinks that my fire has something to do with this fire, but it had to be made clear," Torchi said to WMBF News in April. "It wasn't me."

Torchi was slapped with $732 in fines for not notifying the Forestry Commission of a burn and for allowing the fire to spread to the land of another.

The Conway resident, according to Hawkins, has requested a trial by jury for his tickets.

Because the April 18 fire had been deemed as "extinguished" by Horry County Fire Rescue, Hawkins says Torchi can't be held responsible for the Horry County wildfire.

"We're not holding him criminally responsible for the wildfire since he did not personally start the wildfire," noted Hawkins. "He was doing a debris burn and he didn't take precautions to ensure the debris burn stayed contained in the area of his yard."

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