PICKENS COUNTY — It’s not just the Autumn colors that are ablaze in upstate South Carolina as wildfires have burned through more than a thousand acres in Table Rock State Park, forcing residents from their homes and sending plumes of smokey air throughout much of the state.
First reports of a “small fire near the top of Pinnacle Mountain” came in on Thursday.
According to the S.C. Forestry Commission (SCFC), the wildfire is believed at this time to have sprung from a neglected campfire. What began as a relatively small blaze — covering 15 square miles — ballooned to 250 acres within 24 hours.
By Friday evening, the wildfire had grown to 700 acres before all crews were pulled off the mountain for the night.
Around 60 residents who lived in certain areas north of Highway 11 were evacuated Saturday morning when it was discovered through infrared imagery that the fire had grown to more than 1,400 acres.
They were permitted to return to their homes the following day when it was determined fire lines in those areas were holding.
On Sunday, the SCFC stated the blaze was being battled by wildland firefighters and more than 200 personnel from several state agencies and local fire departments.
SCFC’s Type II Incident Management Team command post reported that infrared imagery, taken from flights over the area on Saturday night, showed the fire had grown to approximately 2,100 acres — an increase of 500 acres from the day prior.
In a statement released Sunday night, the SCFC said the rainfall, so heavily hoped and prayed for by Upstate residents, proved to be more of a hindrance than a help as the rain was “not sufficient to extinguish the fire” but was “likely to hamper firefighting crews’ back-burning efforts this morning (as) they continue to construct and improve fire-lines on both flanks.”
As of Monday, firefighting crews were working to expand the fire-line perimeter to an area encompassing roughly 5,900 acres. Four additional bulldozers were assigned to helping to construct the fire-lines, bringing the total to 10.
“Incident command staff extended the lines farther east and west Saturday out of an abundance of caution and in the interest of protecting communities along the Highway 11 corridor and Table Rock State Park,” said a SCFC official.
Containment of the (as of Monday) 2,400 acre blaze has been estimated at 25 percent by the SCFC.
“We made good progress yesterday constructing fire-lines,” said Mike Bozzo, SCFC incident commander. “After we are able to strengthen these lines with burnout operations, we will feel more confident that these fire-lines will hold.”
Currently, Pickens County Fire and Rescue personnel are being assisted by Anderson, Oconee and Greenville counties.
Safety checklists are being given to occupants of nearby residences in case further evacuations are necessary in the coming days.
In the meantime, firefighters from local volunteer fire departments will be going door-to-door informing nearby residents of the status of the fire.
The SCFC also issued a reminder that a burning ban is in effect for Abbeville, Anderson, Cherokee, Chester, Edgefield, Fairfield, Greenville, Greenwood, Laurens, Lexington, McCormick, Newberry, Oconee, Pickens, Richland, Saluda, Spartanburg, Union and York counties.
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.