UPDATE: Smoke from grass fires caused major traffic hazards along Augusta Road Saturday
West Columbia, SC (Paul Kirby) – Multiple grass fires along the railroad tracks burned down Augusta Road (Hwy 1) starting near Wattling Road Saturday afternoon. The string of fires stretched west as a train traveled in the direction of Lexington. It is thought that a malfunction with the train may have started these near the railroad tracks.
Firefighters were stretched out along the entire area from Wattling Road toward Oak Drive fighting the multiple grass fires that were producing a great deal of smoke. This smoke was causing a serious traffic hazards along Augusta Road as it hung low to the ground, blanketing the highway.
Lexington County’s 911 center notified both Norfolk Southern's and CSX’s dispatch centers and asked them to have all train traffic stop in that area. They also notified them that fire crews were on the tracks working. It was thought that Norfolk Southern owned the tracks but both companies were notified just in case.
The weather conditions contributed to the smoke staying so close to the ground. One driver said that she drove into the smoke that was so thick she couldn’t see. She decided to turn around and head back east toward West Columbia.
Motorist were asked to avoid the area if possible. The smoke was very thick, limiting visibility along Augusta Road at 2:15 p.m. Saturday afternoon. Law enforcement officers were on the scene from several agencies to assist with the dangerous traffic situation. Some structures were threatened by the string of fires, however firefighters were able to quickly get a handle on the situation.
This was an ongoing situation as of 2:00 p.m. Saturday. Eventually all the fires were put out, but motorist may see or smell small amounts of smoke for several days. That shouldn't cause any driving hazards.