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Brush fire threatens home, vehicles, outbuildings, and destroys toys, and other yard items in Wild M

Gaston, SC (Paul Kirby) – A brush fire that started off Peeler Road and burned over to Peeler Court in the Wild Meadows subdivision consumed almost everything in its path before firefighters arrived and stopped it. It threatened half a dozen mobile homes, a shed, and yard items like a trampoline before they were able to bring it under control Tuesday just about noon. The temperature was still in the 20’s and the humidity was in the mid 20% range with a stiff wind blowing the fires. According to Christopher Jackson the internet’s most followed weather expert in our area, winds have been sustained around 10 miles per hour and gusts have been even higher than that over the past few days.

Residents screamed for attention from their homes in Wild Meadows as the fire sped their way this afternoon. The first arriving fire crews had to pick their battles and get to the things that were the most important. The first two trucks made their attacks on different roads, but they could only do so much. Eventually, the alarm was upgraded to a structural response, bringing more manpower and equipment from across the south region of the county.

Some able-bodied men in the neighborhood pitched in with shovels, throwing dirt on the fire around several sheds that were threatened. One homeowner tried to use a garden hose to protect his home, but the handle on the valve was missing. Another small hose was frozen, preventing its water from coming out. Eventually, the firefighters were able to put the fire out though it damaged and destroyed a number of items and a small structure before it was finished.

Elderly homeowners, many of them renters, said they were concerned about people who had already been using fireworks that morning. They also said that some of the neighbors burned in their yards without regard for the safety of the other homeowners in the area or Lexington County’s burning laws. “They just don’t think about what they’re doing,” one older woman said as she stood on her small porch shivering in her housecoat. “Every year, we have a bunch of fires out here and it almost always burns someone’s stuff up,” she said.

Wild Meadows, like many of the manufactured home communities in the southern end of the county, was built on land that is covered with light grasses. It was a hay field many years ago. Even if we had some rain, the strong winds would quickly blow the blades dry like a hairdryer does someone’s hair. When the humidity is low as it has been with this cold front, it only takes a few sparks to set the light, flashy fuels on fire. If there’s any amount of wind at all, the fire can move faster than even the fastest firefighter with a hose. Only the specially equipped brush units that have nozzles on their front bumpers and can roll and pump at the same time, are able to keep up. There are a limited number of these in Lexington County, and when the fires are popping up quickly at different locations, they simply aren’t able to cover all the fires. Right now, until we have a change in the weather patterns, you can expect to see more brush and grass fires, and eventually they’re going to destroy things of value.

Christopher Jackson, a hobbyist weather expert followed by tens of thousands, and who’s known for his accuracy, said in a telephone interview that the humidity will be extremely low, below 20%, for much of the remainder of Tuesday. This is in the range that will allow even a discarded cigarette to start a fire. Once darkness falls, Jackson said we may see a slight rise in humidity, but it won’t help much unless we get an appreciable amount of winter precipitation over the next few days.

Jackson said that he was extremely concerned about the even dryer winter weather that is expected closer to the weekend. “The cold northern blast that we may see follow this current pattern could mean we see humidity levels and wind speeds that when combined could be a recipe for disaster when we’re talking about brush fires,” Jackson said.

If you must burn outside for warmth or cooking, or feel like you must use your leftover fireworks now, you should take every precaution. It's simply best to wait for better weather before using any more fireworks. Shovels and rakes will help slow a fire, but water hoses that haven’t been drained or kept in a heated area like a mudroom, will most probably be frozen, except in the warmest parts of the day. Remember, firefighting is dangerous. Before trying to extinguish a fire yourself, call the fire service by dialing 911. Any delay could allow the fire to destroy more while firefighters are responding.

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