North Myrtle Beach amends open burn ordinance

Open burning laws in North Myrtle Beach are amended to include specific restrictions on burning yard waste.

According to the city’s ordinances posted online, the burning of debris was previously only allowed if the yard waste was the result of an officially declared emergency or disaster.

But earlier this week the North Myrtle Beach City Council made the amendment, allowing open burning for the purpose of removing trees or other vegetation to create a road-bed, the right of way associated with a road-bed or the development of property, city spokesman Pat Dowling said.

Additionally, the site must be 20 acres and the burn must be in a contained burn pit or other approved method at least 1,000 feet from any building or roadway.

Other conditions, such as a site inspection prior to the burn and compliance with the S.C. Department of Environmental Health and Control are required. Any winds should also be blowing away from areas where ambient air might significantly be affected by smoke from the burning if the area includes a roadway, residential or industrial site.

As a general rule, open burning remains prohibited, with few exceptions.

North Myrtle Beach Fire Chief Tom Barstow could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

Scott Hawkins, with the S.C. Forestry Commission, said fire season is quickly approaching.

“Weather determines it, but generally because of our climate it’s late winter, early spring when plants go dormant,” he said.

Yard debris is the cause of nearly half of all wildfires in South Carolina, Hawkins said.

Hawkins hadn’t seen the changes to the open burn ordinance in North Myrtle Beach and could not comment on those laws, but said local lawmakers seem to be looking at their burning restrictions.

“A lot of local governments are starting to consider enhanced restrictions on debris burning because populations and developments are increasing and it’s not as easy to burn yard debris as before,” he said. “Restrictions are all designed to prevent the spread of fire.”

On Monday, North Myrtle Beach also amended an ordinance regulating shade structures on the beach, such as beach tents. Dowling said City Council eliminated the requirement that shading devices be placed at least 10 feet away from any other shade structure.

The tent laws took effect last year and were designed to create enough space around the tents, which sometimes blanket the beach, so rescue workers and vehicles could get to emergencies. In 2010, when the tents popularity soared, emergency vehicles couldn’t maneuver around them.