Lexington, SC (Paul Kirby) – Harrison Cahill, spokesman for Lexington County, is utilizing the county’s social media presence to help educate people about the dangers of outdoor burning during the extremely hot, dry weather we’ve been dealing with. He is helping firefighters get the word out that it is extremely risky to burn outdoors right now. He also wants to educate folks about local ordinances regarding outdoor fires, so you won’t find yourself on the wrong side of the law. Lexington County suggests it would be best to postpone any outdoor fires until conditions improve.
Because of extremely hot and dry conditions statewide, brush fires have been more frequent and intense this year. As we head into the dormant season for organics like grass, hardwoods, and brush, the frequency, size, and intensity of fires will only get worse. Cold snaps in South Carolina often bring with them lower humidity that will increase fire danger even more. If our humidity ever drops below 30%, things change dramatically with fires outdoors.
Lexington County has ordinances governing burning in the unincorporated areas of the county. These laws are intended to keep people safe from dangerous and damaging fires. If you live in a town or city, many of these ban outdoor burning altogether. It really is up to the citizen to know the laws in their area and follow them to prevent criminal and civil penalties.
Lexington County’s ordinances do not exempt a citizen from having to notify the SC Forestry Commission by telephone before burning outside. They can be reached by 1-800-705-8613. That automated system usually advises you about the fire danger level for the day when you call. It is smart to heed that warning against outdoor burning if fire danger is high the day you call.
In addition to having to call before you burn, Lexington County requires that you stay with your fire at all times to make sure you have it controlled. You must also provide water and the tools necessary to prevent your fire from getting out of control. You cannot burn within 75 feet of a property line or structure, and you should always clear a fire break around any area where you intend to burn. This means removing all organics so that you are down to bare soil in the fire’s immediate vicinity.
There’s also a list of things that are safe to burn and another of things that aren’t. You can burn natural organic materials like leaves, limbs, and pine straw. You can also have a fire outside for warmth, cooking and a recreational fire for camping and other gatherings. You still must follow all applicable burning laws where you live to utilize these.
The list of things that it’s prohibited to burn includes household garbage, plastic, asphalt, treated woods and other construction debris, paper, cardboard, and more. Cahill supplied a handy flier that lists all these items to stay away from when burning outside.You can keep it and refer to it if you do have an outdoor fire.
In conclusion, before deciding to burn anything outdoors, it’s best to make yourself very familiar will all laws that govern this. Before you fire up that pile of leaves in your yard, stop, look around, and ask yourself how dangerous this might be. Also determine if it has to be done right now. In most cases it can wait until conditions improve.