April Marks the 10 Year Anniversary of the Highway 31 Fire

APRIL 1, 2019

April 22, 2009 changed the lifes of many that will never forget.  The Highway 31 fire is documented as the worse fire (in terms of most damaging and costly) in South Carolina history.  

Fire Name:  Highway 31 Fire

Status: 100% contained

Fire Reported:  Wednesday afternoon, April 22

Weather on April 22: Temperature - 71, Humidity 24%, Winds West 17mph with gusts to 30mph, poor dispersion.

Fuels: Pine overstory with heavy understory of palmetto, gallberry, wax myrtles and other waxy vegetation located in Carolina Bays. Organic soils make fire difficult to control and dangerous – burns under firelines, equipment bogs down, numerous snags, holes, trees falling with no root system.

Fire History in Area: 1955 – Bombing Range Fire burned 10,162 acres, 1967 – Buist Tract Fire burned 6,000 acres, 1976 – Clear Pond Fire burned 30,000 acres (largest in terms of size in the state's recorded history). In the past 10 years we have responded to fires at Legends, Long Bay, Walker Woods, Avalon, and Black Creek Plantation - all in the same area.

Fire Cause:  Escaped debris burn.

Law Enforcement:  Two tickets were issued on Thursday by SCFC Law Enforcement Officers to a Conway man who was burning household garbage at his residence in the Woodlawn subdivision.  He was cited for Failure to Notify the Forestry Commission (48-35-10 – up to $262.50 fine) and Allowing Fire to Spread to Lands of Another (16-11-180 – up to $470.00).

Burning Ban put in effect April 23 and Lifted April 27th due to fire conditions and limited Commission resources available to respond to wildfires around the state.


Information and Photos Courtesy of South Carolina Forestry Commission:

Total Acres Burned:  19,130,  (most destructive in terms of loss in state recorded history). Forested woodland damage estimated at $17million

Homes Destroyed:  76 Estimated damage totaling $25 million

Homes Damaged:  97

Evacuations:   As many as 4,000 at the height of the fire.

Incident Command Post: Unified command established with Horry County Fire & Rescue.  Unified Incident Command Post was located at the Horry County Solid Waste Facility on Highway 90 about 7 miles east of Conway.

Incident Commanders:  Mike Bozzo (SCFC), K. Bean (Horry Co.), Tom Barstow (N. Myrtle Beach)

Chronology of the Fire:  SCForestry Commission and Horry Fire & Rescue responded to the fire at 12:24pm on Wednesday afternoon.  Fire behavior was extreme with rapid rates of spread.  It made a 6-mile run that afternoon to Highway 31 and another run early Thursday morning across Highway 22 towards the Barefoot Resort area, where it caused the most damage and loss of homes. 

SCFC's Type 2 IMT was released Thursday morning (April 30) and all remaining mop-up and observation was handed back over to the Pee Dee Region. Due to rain received on May 4th all personnel were released from the fire May 5th. We will continue to monitor the area and if it dries out and begins to show activity again, resources will be sent as needed. 

1st Annual Special Edition Bulletin

Highway 31 Fire After Action Report