FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 24, 2012
COUNTY, STATE FIRE OFFICIALS SPOTLIGHT STRICTER BURNING LAWS AIMED AT PREVENTING WILDFIRES
(Hartsville, SC)- South Carolina’s late winter/early spring wildfire season is drawing near and the annual safety and prevention effort is underway by the Forestry Commission statewide. However, this year the boots-on-the ground approach to outreach takes on greater urgency in Darlington County, where burning laws have recently changed.
“We’re working really hard to get the word out,” says the Commission’s fire chief, Darryl Jones. “There’ve been significant changes to county laws addressing outdoor burning and we need to let folks know about them while we make our routine fire prevention and informational rounds.”
The changes to which Chief Jones alludes came about in a county ordinance passed in October. Those accustomed to conducting legal outdoor debris burns on their property in unincorporated areas of Darlington County may suddenly find themselves out of compliance now, if they have not read or are entirely unaware of the changes.
Outdoor burning is legal in rural areas after notifying the Forestry Commission of your intention to burn. In Darlington Co., that phone number is 1-800-986-3742. Only vegetative debris is legal to burn, not household garbage.
Long-range forecasts for the Southeast hint at an active to aggressive fire season ahead. Almost half of South Carolina’s wildfires begin as escaped debris burns. So, in cooperation with Darlington Fire District personnel, Commission staff will be making the rounds in the coming days to make burn site inspections and educate folks about these new restrictions aimed at reducing wildfires across the county.
- Requires an outdoor burn to now be at least 25 feet from a road or structure
- Requires it now be conducted at least 50 feet from a dwelling or business
- Reiterates the legal obligation to notify the SCFC and adhere to DHEC air quality regulations
- A Forestry Commission Red Flag Fire Alert (a fire weather warning) now triggers an automatic BURNING BAN in Darlington Co.
- Empowers the County Fire Chief to ban outdoor burning under certain other conditions
- Mandates that the person conducting the debris burn cannot add material to the fire, and that smoke production has to be substantially ended between Official Sunset and Official Sunrise
A handful other counties in the state have taken similar steps to tighten up debris burning laws at the local level, particularly those prone to fire like Darlington and those where development is introducing lives and property to what foresters call the “WUI,” the Wildand-Urban Interface.
“We are seeing our firefighting capacity challenged thanks to budget cuts that lead to a shrinking staff and aging equipment,” says the Commission’s Jones, who also oversees the management of the agency’s fleet of heavy fire suppression equipment. “We’ve had to stretch our replacement schedule out far longer than the industry-standard 15 years for frontline firefighting dozers, so it’s really great to work at the county level with officials who know that every fire prevented is another one we don’t have to put out.”
The ordinance also addresses and protects prescribed burning, a critical land management practice in the forestry and agriculture communities. More information about wildfire prevention and debris burning, as well as Forestry Commission real-time fire dispatch information, can be found at www.tree.sc.gov.
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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CALL SCOTT HAWKINS @ 803-360-2231 or (803) 896-8820
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