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State bans outdoor burning

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By Jenny Arnold

Lancaster County residents are prohibited from outdoor burning at least through the weekend.

State Forester Gene Kodama has issued a ban on outdoor burning in all South Carolina counties. The ban prohibits all outdoor burning in unincorporated areas of the state.

Kodama said high winds and low humidity fanned a large wildfire in Horry County on Thursday.

The state Forestry Commission resources are committed to the Myrtle Beach fire and forestry officials are concerned that the commission won’t be able to handle another large fire.

Forestry Commission firefighters are at the highest level of readiness and are bracing for another day of intense activity.

Lancaster County Emergency Management Director Morris Russell said Lancaster County is in no imminent danger. The Sandhills area of the state, which begins in the Kershaw area, has a greater risk of wildfires right now, he said.

About 15,000 acres are burning in Horry County, after a wildfire started near Conway and spread quickly. The fire jumped a state highway near North Myrtle Beach, according to the Associated Press, and destroyed about 40 homes early Thursday.

Officials began evacuating about 2,500 residents in a four-mile stretch of U.S. 17, the Associated Press said.

“When it got dark last night, you could see the glow of the flames,” said Eric Rowell, chief assessor for Lancaster County. “It looked pretty intense.”

Rowell is attending an assessment officials conference at the beach and is staying at a resort in the Barefoot Landing area. He said the fire is close, about a mile away.

“It’s pretty smoky and ash is falling everywhere,” Rowell said Thursday. “Walking the beach, you can find burned leaves that have carried from the fire.”

Russell said Lancaster County firefighters have not been asked to assist at the coast yet. That request, if needed, would come through state Emergency Management.

County fire departments will be alerted a few times a day by radio as a reminder of the ban, Russell said.

Three Lancaster County Red Cross workers – Robert Summers, Joe Catledge and Richard Knight – have gone to the coast to assist victims.

Statewide burning bans are rare, and are issued by the governor.

The public is asked to immediately report any suspicious smoke or fire to 911 or the Forestry Commission Dispatch Center, 1-800-777-FIRE.

Violators of the burning ban are subject to fines of up to $100 plus court costs. Forestry Commission officers will be patrolling the state and issuing citations for all illegal fires.

Anyone with questions about the ban may call Lancaster County Emergency Management at 283-8888.

Contact senior reporter Jenny Arnold at jarnold@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1151