Lawmakers debate bill to encourage prescribed burns

North Myrtle Beach, SC - HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - South Carolina lawmakers are debating a bill that will encourage both public and private landowners to have prescribed burns to limit fuel for forest fires.

Both the House and Senate have separate versions of the bill. Horry County Rep. Alan Clemmons says the bill will make controlled burns friendlier for someone who starts one if the laws and regulations are followed.

"The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources tells us this will result in a more reliable schedule of controlled burns," said Clemmons. "This will help prevent wildfires."

Kenneth Collins has lived in the Barefoot Resort area for six years and says the past year has been one of lessons learned, as he and his neighbors rebuilt their neighborhoods. He says he's glad to see changes being made to keep it from happening again.

"It's been very rewarding seeing them rebuilding back, building back their homes and have a great attitude about it," said Collins.  "They need to go over everything. I think the city had many major faults, and a lot of holes in their preparation. I don't think there was good preparation at all between the city and the county."

Horry County Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Scott Thompson says people who do burn need to remember that all fires start small and have to be closely watched to keep them from getting out of control.

Thompson says people shouldn't burn when the winds are high and humidity is low.

"A small ember from your relatively small fire can ignite some of those things that don't really look like they're ignitable because they are green," Thompson said. "Wind will dry out leaves and pine needles that are on trees. Even though they're green winds will dry them out, especially when humidity levels are at or below 30 percent."

The bill moving through the South Carolina House was debated on Wednesday, and has been given a favorable report from the House Judiciary Committee.

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