By Captain James T. Ghi
During the week of August 5 – 13, the Town of Kiawah will host a PGA championship golf tournament. The tournament will increase the population and vehicle traffic in the area exponentially, thus increasing emergency services needs throughout the St. Johns Fire District. Extensive planning with all of the agencies involved has been taking place to ensure the safety of the visitors and residents in the St. Johns Fire District.
Reviewing data obtained from the United States Fire Administration (USFA) National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS), almost 5 percent of the emergency responses in 2011 by the St. Johns Fire District are due to outdoor burning. So far for 2012 there have been 51 responses of the same type. In several cases legal, outdoor burning has spread to areas outside of an intended burn area due to weather conditions such as high winds, unattended burning debris, or no adequate resources to contain and control the fire. A fire on March 3, 2011, spread from a legal residential burn due to high winds. This fire spread over a two acre area, damaging property to surrounding residential areas. A fire on Main Road, across from St. Johns High School, scorched 23 acres and required assistance from the South Carolina Forestry Commission. These are just two examples of the 66 outside fires that occurred in 2011. These types of fires are difficult to control due to weather conditions, access, and terrain. Many require suppression resources for an excessive amount of time.
Some fires from legal outdoor burning have spread, in part, from unattended burning or a residence not having adequate resources as required. In an effort to preserve emergency resources for high priority emergency situations for areas outside of the PGA event, Charleston County has enacted a temporary burn ban from August 4 until August 14. The ban has also been endorsed by the Towns of Kiawah and Seabrook Islands. The outdoor burning ban does not included residential grilling.
As a reminder, when the burn ban has been rescinded, only natural vegetation that comes from a property can be burned on the property. No material can be brought from one location to the other. It is against the law to burn any type of construction material, tires, and trash.
Captain James T. Ghi is a Fire Prevention Specialist with St. Johns Fire and Rescue. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or by calling 296-8392. Make sure you check your smoke alarms! If you have questions about your residential smoke alarm, contact the St. Johns Fire Department at 559-9194 for a free smoke alarm check.