Ten years later: Weather conditions helped fuel destructive Hwy. 31 wildfire

Ten-year anniversary of Hwy. 31 wildfire

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Monday marks 10 years since the massive wildfire in Horry County that burned nearly 200 homes, making it one of the biggest fires crews in the Grand Strand have ever fought.

The flames prompted as many as 4,000 evacuations and millions of dollars in damages.

Weather conditions on April 22, 2009 were perfect for the fire to get out of control. Temperatures that day were very warm, well up into the 80s, but the big issues were the winds.

Winds that day were gusting about 35 to 45 mph and the humidity was extremely low. In fact, the humidity values were at 15 to 20 percent, and everything was very dry. That made the perfect recipe for the wildfire to get out of control and it did so very quickly.

By that afternoon, the wildfire was strong enough to create its own weather. Near the fire, winds were blowing as high as 60 mph as air rushed into the blaze. It was also tractable on WMBF’s First Alert Doppler Radar.

Smoke, ash and debris in the air could be seen from the radar because that fire was so big, eventually growing to 20,000 acres.

On Monday, the South Carolina Forestry Commission will hold a press conference about fire prevention awareness starting at 10 a.m. at the entrance to Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve, locate at 3715 S.C. 90 in Conway.

Wildland firefighters, fire prevention officers with the forestry commission, and first responders will recount the weather, circumstances and events that led to the fire and its spread.

Officials said they want to be sure to get across the risk of wildfires is still very real.

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