West Columbia, SC (Paul Kirby) – Firefighters from multiple agencies responded to several grass fires alongside I-26 from an area close to the Airport Boulevard exit west toward Augusta Road. All the fires were in the west-bound lanes and all seemed to have started along the interstate and burned off toward the frontage roads.
The first units to be dispatched were from Lexington County. They sent several stations so that they would respond from both directions in the event that the callers had the direction of traffic confused. Trucks from West Columbia then responded and began to assist the county crews. Eventually, once it was learned that the fires were spreading, and there were more than one or two, another unit from Cayce DPS responded also. Eventually, that truck was used to shut down one lane of the interstate for the protection of the firefighters working with handlines near the roadway.
It is not un-common to have multiple grass fires to start along roadways when the relative humidity is low. This usually happens in South Carolina when cold weather moves in. In most of these instances, either a commercial or recreational vehicle is inadvertently dragging something metal like a chain that creates a shower of sparks. Those sparks ignite the dry grasses along the road. Sometimes, heavy trucks can also have a tire down on an axle with multiple tires. The driver hasn’t realized that they have the flat because the other tires are supporting their load. If the metal of the rim contacts the road, it can also cause sparks that will start fires. There have been cases where dozens of fires were started before the driver realizes the problems or is stopped by someone. This is not to say that this is what caused the fires over the weekend.
In the case of the fires on Saturday, the crews used small, specially equipped brush trucks as well as their larger fire engines to extinguish the fires. Some had spread off the interstate near Platt Springs Road, and these were extinguished from along the frontage roads on the opposite side of the fencing that protects the interstate from animals and people just wandering across.
It took the crews more than an hour to fully extinguish all the fires. Later in the day, they went back to several that were smoldering to make sure that they didn’t re-kindle.