NMB museum recognizes 5th anniversary of Highway 31 fire

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The North Myrtle Beach Historical Museum will recognize the fifth anniversary of the Highway 31 fire on Thursday, May 29, at 7 p.m.

The following news release was issued by the Museum:

North Myrtle Beach Area Historical Museum recognizes the fifth anniversary of the Highway 31 / Barefoot fire with an evening of fire information on Thursday, May 29, 7PM, at the Museum. The speakers include North Myrtle Beach's Chief Tom Barstow; National Weather Service meteorologist Joshua; and Coastal SC Firewise coordinator Drake Carroll.

During the presentation, Chief Barstow will share first-hand accounts of battling the blaze in an urban environment. Weiss will explore how the ecological composition of the Buist Tract and weather conditions provide the perfect climate for regional wildfires. Carroll will offer strategies for protecting your home and business from fire.

"When I heard Josh talk about the Buist Tract in Horry County, I was surprised by the fire history of the region—the Highway 31 fire wasn't the first. Some of SC's worst wildfires occurred in the Buist tract in 1954, 1967, 1976, and 1985. Fuel and Fire will help us prepare for the future of our community by reviewing past history," added Museum director Jenean Todd.

Horry County is part of a unique ecosystem. Adjacent to the coastline, the area is mainly a pine forest with many Carolina bays (isolated wetlands in natural shallow depressions that are fed largely by rain and shallow groundwater). The bays are full of wax myrtle and bayberry, called "gasoline bushes" by foresters because they burn with a rapid intensity. The vegetation on top of a bay will burn even if it is standing in water. The soft, wet ground makes it extremely difficult to plow fire lines through the bays.

The Highway 31 fire, South Carolina's worst wildland urban interface fire, started on April 22, 2009. Due to low humidity, high winds, and flammable vegetation, the fire burned 19,130 acres, destroyed 76 homes, and damaged 97 others before firefighters were able to gain control. Shifting winds and abnormal nighttime weather conditions made the fire very unpredictable and dangerous. Fortunately, no lives were lost and no injuries occurred during the wildfire.

Reserve seats for Fuel and Fire by calling 843.427.7668.

Fee: $1 or free with Museum admission; Museum members: FREE.

Cut line: Houses in the Barefoot Community dwarfed by billowing smoke. Courtesy of SC Forestry Commission

Cut line: Pine forests and Carolina bays provide fertile ground for wildfires. Courtesy of SC Forestry Commission

The museum is located at 799 2nd Avenue North in North Myrtle Beach.

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