Forestry commission lifts Red Flag Fire Alert

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By Greg Summers

 Gregory A. Summers


The Red Flag Fire Alert issued  by the S.C. Forestry Commission across the state on Jan. 25, was lifted earlier this week after weather conditions improved.

The change was not due to the mid-week winter storm. It was due to calmer winds and higher relative humidity values that reduce the likelihood of a outdoor burning spreading.

A Red Flag Alert cautions that wildfire danger is increasing and that outdoor burning could be difficult to keep in check. Nearly all wildfires in the Palmetto State begin as debris burns that get out of control.  

Most outdoor activities increase on the weekend, which prompted the decision to declare the Red Flag Fire Alert.

However, the commission said in a release the southeastern United States remains in the midst of wildfire season and care should be taken with all forms of outdoor burning to prevent wildfire starts.

During the most recent Red Flag Alert, forestry personnel responded to 51 fires statewide. No injuries have been reported.

One of those fires forestry personnel responded to was here, said Lancaster County Fire Marshal Stephen Blackwelder.

“There were seven brush fires in Lancaster County last weekend,” Blackwelder said. “The worst one burned a little more than 8 acres.”

That fire was reported about 7:45 p.m. Jan. 25, just south of Heath Springs near Stoneboro Road and Pebble Avenue and adjacent to an historical cemetery. 

Blackwelder said firefighters from Heath Springs and Rich Hill volunteer fire departments responded, as well as an S.C. Forestry Commission heavy blade plow.

“The issue was protecting the cemetery,” Blackwelder said. “A firebreak was plowed around it as a safety precaution.

“Right now, we aren’t sure how it started,” he said. 

Local regulations

The open burning regulations in Lancaster County were enacted in June 2008 (Ordinance 921) and are somewhat modeled after state code. However, it is a little different due to Panhandle growth.

The county ordinance:

– Requires an outdoor burn to be at least 35 feet from a road or structure

– Requires an outdoor burn to be conducted at least 50 feet from a dwelling or property line

– Requires having extinguishing/control equipment readily available

– Requires the outdoor burn to be constantly attended by a competent person

– Smoke production must have substantially ended before sunset. Combustible material cannot be added between official sunset and the official sunrise the following day (does not apply to burning for recreation, human warmth, cooking and ceremonies).

While the burning ban was lifted here, state law requires anyone planning to conduct debris or controlled burns to notify the S.C. Forestry commission in advance. 

In Lancaster County, that phone number is 1-800-705-8610.

To report a forest fire in Lancaster County, call 911 or (800) 777-3473. 

For specific questions about burning in Lancaster County, call the county fire service at (803) 283-8888. 


Contact copy editor Greg Summers at (803) 283-1156