Burn ban in effect in Horry County as wildfire season begins

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF)- A year ago, almost to the day, the Windsor Fire destroyed over a hundred condos.  As of 8 a.m. Thursday there will be a fire ban meaning no one is allowed to burn debris. The fire ban will last until Saturday at 8 a.m.

South Carolina's wildfire season typically occurs between late winter and early spring. In an average year, South Carolina experiences more than 5,000 wildfires, burning more than 30,000 acres and destroying an average of 20-30 homes.

Wildfires can be caused by many things, such as arson, debris burning, fireworks, lightning, camp fires, or carelessness such as children playing with matches or throwing cigarettes onto dry grass. In South Carolina, most wildfires that are caused by people are the result of woods arson and careless debris burning.

Weather is an important factor in dealing with a wildfire, because wind, humidity and the length of time since the last precipitation event must be taken into consideration and can have various impacts on a fire's ability to start and to continue to burn. Wind typically determines how quickly a wildfire spreads and can also dry the fire's fuels, making them more flammable. Relative humidity, a measurement of moisture in the air, can have a major impact on a wildfire as well. If humidity is low, that means the air is dry, which means the air will absorb moisture from any of the fire's potential fuels, increasing their flammability.

This week's fire ban is necessary because winds are picking up. First Alert Weather is tracking strong arctic winds, which can make a small yard fire turn into an out-of-control blaze. Chief and Public Information Officer of Horry County Fire Rescue, Brian VanAernem, knows many people are still cleaning up from two ice storms.

"A lot of people have their yard debris and their storm debris is all down and they're starting to burn it," he said. "They didn't burn it right away due to the fact that it was still very wet and moist - it was still alive, and now that it's more dry, and a better time people start burning that debris off to get rid of it."

VanAernem wants to make sure that people wait until the time is right to start burning and says even slight wind can trigger a huge fire.

"If they take a break, go inside for a drink or to get lunch, what happens is a little breeze comes up and pushes the fire," he said. "Next thing they know, it's out of control and they're way behind."

Ever since the Windsor Green fire, the county is taking a more proactive approach to prevent such fires. VanAernem says that fire is fresh in their memory and is why these bans are so important. If you have any questions about burning your debris when the fire ban is over, you can always call the fire house and they will tell you when would be a safe time to burn and what to be cautious of.

More than 30,000 acres were burned in Horry County in South Carolina's largest wildfire, which took place in April of 1976. 14,405 wildfires were reported during the state's worst 12-month period, between July 1980 and June 1981.

For more information on safe outdoor burning, as well as current wildland fires, current burning notifications, and more, visit the South Carolina Forestry Commission's Fire and Burning Information page here:

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