Foresters urge caution as wildfire season approaches

By Brandon Herring - bio | email

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - As the South Carolina wildfire season approaches, the state's Forestry Commission is working to educate the public on how to safely burn yard debris.

Foresters say more than 40 percent of wildfires in South Carolina start as debris burns, often in the yard of a home.

Forestry Commission law enforcement officers in the Pee Dee Region Office in Florence say they have increased their outreach efforts in the last year. One way they hope to inform the public about safe burning practices is by leaving brochures in convenience stores and other public places. The brochures, titled "Think Before You Burn," outline the four basics of outdoor burning.

On Thursday, forestry officers in Florence demonstrated the practices outlined in the brochures. The tips are based on the acronym "BURN."

B stands for "be prepared" by making sure you have enough time, having the tools you'll need and clearing a break or dirt ring around the burn area.

U stands for "understand the laws," which make it illegal to burn household trash. Burn laws also require notification to the Forestry Commission prior to burning yard debris.

R stands for "respect the weather." High winds or low humidity mean you should burn some other time.

N stands for "never leave your fire." The foresters say most fires spread when people step away from their fires momentarily or leave them without completely putting them out.

Forestry Law Enforcement Officer David Hodge said fire always tries to spread, so it always has to be watched to keep it contained. He said if the person burning debris becomes uncomfortable about the burn situation, the burn should be ended.

"Just like this fire that we demonstrated [Thursday], wind got a little gusty and we just decided to put it out," Hodge said. "It'll dry out. We can burn it another day or dispose of it another way. It's all common sense. Be safe when you burn."

When all debris is burned, the fire should be put out completely. Hodge said in some areas of South Carolina the soil around a fire will also burn, so it's best to douse the area with water. If the fire is completely out smoke should not rise from the ashes.

"Make sure it is completely out and safe before you leave it because ultimately you are responsible for your fire," Hodge said. "If it gets off of your property and burns onto someone else's you could be fined."

Most cities and towns prohibit burning within the city or town limits. In areas where outdoor burning is allowed,  there is a different phone number assigned to each county for notifying the Forestry Commission of an outdoor burn . A list of those numbers can be found on the S.C. Forestry Commission website.

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