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HEATH SPRINGS –Firefighters from two volunteer fire departments and the state forestry commission contained a grass fire on Cauthen Street on Sunday, Dec. 23 that burned through two yards and threatened the woods near a home.
Though damage was relatively minimal, Heath Springs Volunteer Fire Department Chief Patrick Helms said the fire illustrates the importance of local fire ordinances and is a reminder to stay vigilant when burning trash.
Helms said his department was dispatched about 2:45 p.m. Sunday when a city of Lancaster firefighter who lives nearby saw the fire burning in the 200 block of Cauthen Street and called it in.
“It started with people who were burning trash and debris in a barrel and they had left it unattended,” Helms said. “The fire got out of the barrel and spread from one yard, into someone else’s yard and was burning into the woods toward another house.”
Helms said the fire burned a 100-foot long, one-acre area and had started burning into the woods heading toward Main Street.
He said fire trucks were dispatched to three homes with help from the Rich Hill Volunteer Fire Department in mutual support, and the Forestry Service was called in clear a fire break in order to contain the fire’s spread.
“I guess the lesson is that you shouldn’t burn fire in town and leave it unattended because, (in this case) you could have burned down a house that was full of kids,” Helms said. “Had it not been found when it was, it would have been on Main Street.”
Helms said Sunday’s low humidity, which resulted in drier conditions, and breezy weather, which both stirred embers out of the barrel and helped stoke the fire, were factors in the fire’s spread.
He said Heath Springs, like other municipalities in Lancaster County, requires a permit for outdoor burning of trash and leaves.
Helms said the idea behind the burn permits is to protect neighbors and their property. When residents request a burn permit, Helms said, he generally stops by and see what the resident intends to burn and where they plan to do it.
Helms said he also instructs permit-holders on safe burning practices, such as staying with the fire and having an extinguishing method in case it gets out of hand, such as a bucket of water, hose or shovel.
“We’re not telling people that they can’t sit outside at a campfire with friends and roast marshmallows,” Helms said. “They just need to be responsible when they do.”
For information on Heath Springs burn permits, call town hall at (803)-273-2066.
For information on Lancaster burn permits, call City of Lancaster Fire Services at (803) 283-8888.
State law requires property owners notify the Forestry Commission before burning outdoor.
For information on residential yard debris burning visit http://www.state.sc.us/forest/fyard.htm or call the Lancaster County line at 1 (800) 705-8610.
Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151