Drought Conditions Lead to Wildfire Spreading In SC Upstate, Air Quality Concerns

Wildfires on Pinnacle Mountain in the Piedmont

Wildfires have been spreading throughout the Southeast, creating concerns for the upstate of South Carolina, where a dry summer and fall have led to a prolonged drought.

The fire, which began in North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee, has led to evacuations in those states and is currently only 15 percent contained. Rebecca Hersher of SC Public Radio reports that many of the blazes are under investigation for being caused by arson.

The fires have now spread to South Carolina, and have burned more than 2,500 acres on Pinnacle Mountain in Pickens County. The northwestern part of the state has experienced no appreciable rain and above-average temperatures for months.

Fire fighters remain concerned for dry conditions, and a burning ban is in place for nineteen counties above Columbia. To hear the full report on the wildfires and drought conditions in the upstate, listen to SC Public Radio’s Russ McKinney here.

Also of concern to South Carolinians is how these fires, though they appear distant, can affect air quality.

The State reports that smoke “saturated” the air in the Midlands on Tuesday, Nov. 15.

The National Weather Service issued a “code orange” air quality alert on Tuesday morning, warning that smoke from wildfires could affect Richland, Lexington, Kershaw, Newberry, Fairfield, Sumter and Lee counties.

As of Wednesday, Nov. 16, a “code red” air quality alert was issued for Abbeville, Aiken, Allendale, Anderson, Bamberg, Barnwell, Calhoun, Cherokee, Chester, Edgefield, Fairfield, Greenville, Greenwood, Laurens, Lexington, McCormick, Newberry, Oconee, Orangeburg, Pickens, Richland, Saluda, Spartanburg, Union, and York counties.

These designations mean that children and adults, especially those with respiratory illness and problems, should avoid being outside for prolonged periods of time. Particle matter, is the greatest threat to health, particularly in children who take in more air than adults.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) recommends keeping windows and doors closed, and when operating an air conditioner/central heating unit, keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent smoke from getting inside.

DHEC also recommends that people located near the wildfires should monitor the situation very closely. See the South Carolina Forestry Commission website for the most up to date information: www.state.sc.us/forest.

For information about the areas affected by the smoke, along with the location and current conditions of the wildfires, please visit: https://airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=topics.smoke_wildfires.

For additional information about smoke and its health effects, please visit: http://www.scdhec.gov/HomeAndEnvironment/DisasterPreparedness/Wildfires/.