Forestry officials: Budget cuts could hinder fire response

Horry County, SC - By Evan Lambert - bio | email

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - South Carolina Forestry Commission officials say budget cuts could impair fire officials' ability to fight fires heading into wildfire season.

Scott Hawkins, forestry commission spokesman, says the state-wide budget cuts leave the agency operating on a budget scaled down almost 50 percent as compared to a few years ago.

Hawkins says the agency has an operating budget of about $9 million, which was once about $18 million.

"That limits our fire capacity. We've had to stop replacing some of our aging equipment that we respond to wildfires with. We keep our personnel ranks lower because of the budget crisis," said Hawkins.

This past weekend fire officials received 114 calls for brush fires. In Horry County, local officials responded to more than 40 calls, while forestry officials responded to four of those.

"Statewide, we were running and gunning on various brush fire calls and this isn't even fire season," said Hawkins.

As a result of the active wildfire season expected, officials are asking the public to avoid outdoor burns of yard debris. They say many wildfires start as burns that spin out of control.

Although officials advise against burning, they say if it can't be avoided people need to follow state and local guidelines.

For more information on how to conduct a proper burn, click on Tips for Burning under Also on the Web right next to the headline of this story.

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