SC Forestry Commission on standby to respond to California wildfire


Dozens of crews continue to battle wildfires in California as the death toll and number of people missing continue to rise. 

But in South Carolina several agencies are on stand-by waiting to get the call for action to help the crews on the West right now. The South Carolina Forestry Commission is one of those agencies. 

Each year there are more than 3000 wildfires in SC. Most of them are too small to track, but sometimes there are exceptions.

“We’ve kind of seen sometime depending on the climate like 2 years ago, fires into October November which goes back to the Table Rock fire in the upstate,” said SC Forestry Commission forest supervisor Samuel St. Louis.

The climate is one reason wildfires are more common in California. St. Louis explained the dry temperature keeps fuel sources on the forest floor ready to ignite. Fuel sources include anything that can burn. 

St. Louis added, “What we’re seeing in California is they don’t have that much climate change so those fuels are always ready to go.”

St. Louis is very familiar with the terrain and challenges on the west coast. He’s helped with fire response putting out fires similiar to the “camp fire” in California.

“We use a tractor plow, uses this big blade in the front or a fire plow on the back and we will dig a trench encircling the fire so the fire can snuff itself out,” explained St. Louis.

But a plow isn’t always the best tactic. Sometimes if there is steep terrain, a 20-man crew will dig that same style trench the plow would using their hands working 16-hour days. The goal removing those fuel sources from the forest floor. 

The SC Forestry Commission says one reason we don’t see those massive wildfires in South Carolina like in California is because of forest management practices. St. Louis added how prescribed burns help remove fuel sources like pine straw.

St. Louis continued, “It’s like writing a prescription for that block of land. so we come up with the idea of wind speed, humidity, so in a control manner we can apply fire to the ground reduce those fuels but not let it get out of control.”

The SC Forestry Commission hasn’t received the call to respond to the fires in California, but employees are starting to note their availability each week in case that call does come. 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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