AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WJBF) — A brush fire that forced families to leave their homes last night is now contained. Traffic reopened on interstate 20 at about 9 a.m. No injuries nor structure damage were reported.
“We’re not suspecting anything malicious or anything like that,” Andy Johnson with SC Forestry Commission told NewsChannel 6’s Shawn Cabbagestalk. “Within the first 20 minutes, we noticed the fire doubled in size and spread to both sides of the interstate,” he added.
Crews from several agencies spend hours trying to contain the fire that burned 150 acres and forced evacuations of homes within a one-mile radius.
Johnson is a fire management officer for the South Carolina Forestry Commission. He said while the fire is contained, it’s not completely under control.
“We are still seeing stuff burning inside of the containment lines and we will continue to see that until we get some significant rain fall,” Johnson added.
So what caused it to spread so quickly? Johnson said current weather conditions had a hand in the blaze. “With the high winds like we are experiencing today and the lower humidity and the higher temperatures caused the fire to spread,” he shared.
We’re learned the fire was ruled caused by equipment. Officials believing something from a tractor-trailer or passenger car initiated something on the side of the road causing the fire to take place.
While Johnson says it’s always a possibility for the fires to reignite, forestry officials have made containment lines to handle what may happen.”We’ve made our containment lines wide enough to try to out-think the wind. if it’s blowing at a certain speed, then we know our fire breaks need to be a certain wide to separate the fuel that way in case something does blow out, it’ll land before it makes it to the unburned area,” he said.
Meanwhile, the South Carolina Forestry Commission is issuing a statewide red flag fire alert – effective immediately. While it doesn’t prohibit outdoor burning, provided that all other state and local regulations are followed, it does trigger certain county or local ordinances that restrict outdoor fires. So, contact your local fire departments to check on those restrictions.