Rangers show News 12 how fast flames spread

By: Kristen Cosby
By: Kristen Cosby

McDuffie County’s chief forest ranger says the man who was killed in a fire Monday died after burning without a permit.

63-year-old Doug Johnson died in the fire.

Investigators say Johnson was burning something outside his home Monday afternoon and it spread to his home.

McDuffie and Columbia counties were not issuing any fire permits Monday because of high winds.

News 12's Kristen Cosby is live outside our studios with a demonstration of just how fast fire can spread this time of year.

It's easy to see how dry it is right now just by looking at the grass outside News 12.

The dry conditions combined with strong wind is why burning was banned in McDuffie and Columbia counties Monday.

Burning was only allowed for half a day in those counties Tuesday.

And after you watch the experts catch the woods on fire, you'll see why.

What we're doing is a prescribed fire.

“Fire can move pretty fast in the right conditions,” says Columbia County’s chief ranger senior, Steve Abbot.

In a demonstration, Chief Abbot shows us just how fast.

Chief Abbot lights the edge of the woods in a controlled burn...and less than a minute later, the fire moves 20 feet.

Flames cover the bottom of the woods and move up tree trunks.

“Weather plays a major role in fire behavior. Low humidity and high winds, the fire will move quickly,” says Chief Abbot.

The wind is blowing north to south today. And humidity is low right now, 28 percent.

These conditions are common between December and May.

Chief Abbot says if you must burn, do it in the morning and get a permit.

Forest rangers won't give you one if conditions aren't right, because these fast flames could spread to the wrong place.

And Chief Abbot says fire moves even faster in an open area like your yard.

So, how can you slow down fire from spreading in your yard?

Here are a few suggestions.

  • When it's dry out, water your lawn regularly.
  • Keep your grass cut low.
  • Don't keep fire wood piles next to your house.
  • Don't use pine straw in flower beds next to your house.
For more information on protecting yourself and your property from fire, visit www.firewise.org.


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