Dry and windy weather has prompted the county to initiate several short-term open burn bans this year, and one public official says that prohibition should be permanent in certain areas of the county.
Harold Worley, the Horry County councilman who represents the first district including North Myrtle Beach and Little River, says open burns should be banned east of the waterway.
West of the waterway, however, Worley says many factors will have to be considered, particularly the need for farmers to regularly burn their fields.
“We need to allow those folks to continue burning in some areas,” Worley said. “In these situations, one shoe does not fit all.”
Worley says he plans to broach the subject of limiting open burning in specific sections only of unincorporated Horry County when the council holds its budget retreat on March 22.
It’s legal to burn yard trimmings such as leaves and limbs, but it’s illegal to burn cardboard, paper, tires, plastics and other items listed on the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s website.
State law requires that anyone burning yard debris first notify the Forestry Commission at 1-800-986-5404.
The law also requires that a firebreak be cleared around the burning site with the proper equipment on hand to keep a fire under control. The fire must also be attended at all times until it is extinguished.
Horry County officials have the authority to order temporary outdoor burning bans whenever there's a statewide red flag alert or if high winds or other weather conditions locally are conducive to wildfires.
Horry County Fire Rescue reported more than 120 small brush fires in January plus 11 brush fires larger than one acre.
“It’s that time of year when the grass is dry and people want to clean up their yards, but it just takes one little wind to blow to get it out of control,” said Brian Van Aernem with Horry County Fire Rescue.
Van Aernem said they do get calls for yard debris burns getting out of control, often times because the resident has taken a lunch break and left the fire unattended.
“There seems to be a lot of smaller (brush fires) this year that they knock down really quickly that don’t become an issue, but it’s the people burning carelessly in their backyard that’s the problem,” Worley said.
Issuing some restrictions within unincorporated Horry County was broached by the council years ago but no new rules were instituted.
Worley acknowledges that it will be a touchy topic for some residents in the county, but says “people are pushing me to do something about it.”
“There is a group out there that is going to burn house garbage and waste -- they should not be doing it, but they do,” Worley said. “The problem is you’ve got homes built within a couple hundred feet and people can’t breathe for all the smoke.”
“It’s a problem, and we’ve just got to deal with it,” Worley said.