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Flames tougher to extinguish due to budgeting concerns


Officials are still fighting a fire that burned more than 20,000 acres in South Carolina, but budget cuts are making the process a bit more difficult.

South Carolina forestry officials said the tough economy has made fighting the Highway 31 fire even more difficult.

The South Carolina Forestry Commission has since put a burn ban in place. Because budget cuts meant staff cuts, dealing with another fire would be extremely difficult.

In North Carolina, budget cuts have lead to a 10 percent reduction in staffing for the North Carolina Forestry Service.

But even at full staff, a burn ban would have been issued.

“Anytime you have that much equipment committed in one area a burning ban is something that we typically do,” said Shane Hardee of the NC Forestry Service.

Across the nation, forestry officials burn areas of the forest to help control major fires.

South Carolina officials said these control burn areas were easiest to extinguish during the wildfires.

That’s one area where North Carolina hasn’t cut back. Hardee explained, “The budget has not impacted our ability to do control burns. In fact, we were told to continue as normal even throughout the budgetary restrictions because of the benefit it does have in fighting fires.”

If we were to experience a fire as large as the one in Myrtle Beach, we could see a lot of the same help South Carolina has received. “If we get a large fire, all we have to do is activate the compact and other states will send resources as we request them,” said Hardee.

A week ago, North Carolina forestry officials faced a fire that had a similar intensity to the one that raged in Myrtle Beach last week, and they’re still monitoring burning areas. That makes it easy to understand why Myrtle Beach officials believe it could be months before the fire is under control.

The bottom line, if a similar fire hit North Carolina, Hardee said, “We’re as prepared as we can be.”

Hardee said the North Carolina Forestry Service has cut its equipment budget. It still has several helicopters at its disposal, but its airplane has mechanical problems, and did not make the list for repair. Hardee said the airplane had been key in quickly putting out several fires in our area.

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Story summary

videoOfficials are still fighting a fire that burned more than 20,000 acres in South Carolina, but budget cuts are making the process a bit more difficult.

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