SCFC: Wildfire numbers going wild, think before you burn - FOX Carolina 21

SCFC: Wildfire numbers going wild, think before you burn

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SCFC issues warning about burning SCFC issues warning about burning
COLUMBIA, SC (FOX Carolina) -

The South Carolina Forestry Commission responded to 35 fires statewide Thursday, and they're expecting another active weekend ahead. 

"It's clear that after a wet winter thus far and a major ice storm behind us, our wildfire season is finally here," says Scott Hawkins, public information director with the Forestry Commission.  "Wildfire activity always picks up at some point in late winter/early spring in the southeastern U.S."

SCFC said most of Thursday's fires began as debris, burns that escaped and became woods or grass fires. They said some of the fires spread to structures and resulted in more than an estimated $273,000 worth of damages or losses.

State law requires a call to the Forestry Commission before burning, and as of 6 p.m. Thursday, calls totaled 1,757. The agency said there is a direct correlation between the number of debris burn notifications and wildfire activity.

With warmer weather on the way, officials said they believe many people will be coaxed outside to do storm cleanup, and because of the recent ice storm, the "fuel load" for wildland fire is heavier than normal in some places.

"We know folks want to put the storm behind them and one way to do that is to burn off downed limbs and branches on their property. Our fire staff just wants to make sure everyone understands and respects the factors that can cause a debris burn to turn into a wildfire they're unable to stop," Hawkins said.

According to SCFC, careless debris burners cause more than 40 percent of wildfires in South Carolina every year, and the commission is warning people to think before you burn to avoid being one of them. 

SCFC recommends burning smaller piles and being aware of changing wind speed and direction. They said you are responsible for your own fire, and if it escapes you, you will be fined. The commission also said if your fire damages property, you are liable.

In order to prevent wildfires, SCFC recommended being prepared and understanding the laws about burning before you do it. The commission also said to respect the weather and to never leave your fire unattended.

SCFC said statistically, wildfires peak on Saturday afternoons when people are active outdoors, winds are at their highest, and fuel moisture is at its lowest.

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