Second Forest Fire In Less Than A Week Dangerously Close To Harbison State Forest

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO)– Two acres of land goes up in flames, dangerously close to the Harbison State Forest. The fire which broke out around 7 last night but smoke is still billowing off the few hot-spots left. The Forestry Commission says it will probably be smoking for the next five days, but they say no one in the area needs to worry about the smoke.

The forestry officers hope that rain will come this way and help cool down the remains of the forest fire.

“We’re very fortunate that the area around the whole perimeter was fairly green with live vegetation. So it had a lot of moisture in it and didn’t easily ignite and stayed within the big logging debris,” Samuel St. Louis said, the supervisor of Forestry Commission’s Law Enforcement in Richland and Lexington counties. 

They say they were pretty fortunate the fire is only two acres in size since it has been more than four weeks without significant rainfall, leaving the area dry and susceptible to fires. It is fires like these that show why having the most updated equipment is so important.  Two of the firefighters were using open style cab tractors to fight the 20 foot tall flames, needing mesh and grating to be strong enough to keep out the heat of the fire, heavy smoke, and burning embers. While the others were able to utilize enclosed cabs, that have smoke filters, A.C. and heat protectant glass.

“For those operators, it’s a huge asset because on days like yesterday when it was 100 degrees with the heat index, those operators can work and not absorb the radiant heat off the fire. And their bodies are able to sustain and they’re able to work little longer hours and they can rehab their bodies a lot better,” St. Louis said.

So far, the state has converted nearly 50% of their fleet. They hope legislators see how dangerous this and choose to provide the state funding to protect the fire fighters. The machines cost $375,000 each, but for the safety of his crew, St. Louis says it’s worth it.

“What it means for those guys, it’s safety and making sure we have a better chance at bringing them home every night. I mean these guys and gals put their lives on the line. And if we can give them that extra safety and protection, it means the world to them,” St. Louis said. 

The forestry commission said this is a good reminder not to do fireworks, grill, or do any campfires since it is so dry. The fire at Harbison State Park is under investigation, but it’s suspected fireworks is the cause, and if so, whoever set them off could face city charges.