Gaston, SC (Paul Kirby) – A fire that started in Calhoun County last Thursday has kept firefighters on their toes and on the go since it was brought under control. Motorists passing saw small hot spots and continued to report the fire again and again. Both Lexington County and Calhoun County firefighters have been back to that fire many times since Thursday.
According to a spokesman for Lexington County, their units assisted Calhoun County Fire Service and the SC Forestry Commission on a large woods fire along Highway 21. The fire, which began burning Thursday afternoon, was originally spotted along I-26. It was able to jump that barrier and continue through heavier brush near the DAK America plant.
Both Lexington County battalion chiefs were on the scene at one point providing firefighter safety and operational assistance within a unified command structure. Lexington County also committed two fire engines and two brush trucks to the fire in a supporting role. Eventually, the combined efforts of the firefighters from the three agencies were able to bring the fire under control.
On a fire this large, under control and out are two different things. After the SC Forestry Commission plows a break around a fire and large trees and burning in the tree canopy is out, the remainder is left smoldering. These spots are inside the fire break and the area of black where the flames have already consumed all the fuels on the ground. Accessing and committing to put out every smoldering spot inside the break of a fire this size is almost impossible and would be a waste of resources. These can eventually burn out on their own, sometimes days or even weeks later.
The problem with this fire was its proximity to I-26 and Hwy 21. As motorists passed and saw the small fires, they dialed 911 and reported them. Lexington County had trucks and equipment on the scene numerous times as did Calhoun County. The SCDOT put signage along I-26 to warn motorists of smoke in the area from the fire but the calls continued throughout the weekend. Until all the fuels are completely burned, only a heavy rain and time will do anything to completely put out all the hot spots.
As a rule, if you spot a small fire or see smoke rising in spot surrounded by black ground cover that’s burned, it should be okay. The same can be said if the fire is surrounded by a deep furrow of dirt where a tractor plowed a break. If you see fire climbing a tree, or it’s already burning in the trees’ tops or canopy, you should call that in. Any wind could make embers from these jump the burned area and fire break and take off again. The same can be said for any brush fire where the flames are moving along and consuming unburned pine straw or other fuels. If in doubt, call it in.
What’s burning at the Hwy. 21 fire now has all been in the break so far. It’s also in Calhoun County. Lexington County has always provided support to agencies who request it, but in this case, unless Calhoun County requests LCFS’s assistance, reports of smoke or small flames generated inside the break of this fire are being transferred to Calhoun County.
The cause of the fire has not been released. At this point, neither county has reported any injuries as a result of the fire.