SC water treatment plant threatened

Fire continues to burn despite hopes of complete containment; gusty winds predicted Saturday.

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC | April 25, 2009

This South Carolina wildfire burned more than 20,000 acres of forest and wetlands and destroyed nearly 70 homes.

A major wildffire that scorched more than 20,000 acres and destroyed nearly 70 homes in coastal South Carolina was threatening a water treatment plant Saturday morning despite efforts to fully contain the blaze. Weather forecasters were warning that gusty winds Saturday could spread the fire further.

Fire officials said the fire was 80 percent contained Saturday morning and except for the treatment plant was not threatening any buildings.

On Wednesday, 2,500 people were forced to evacuate their Horry County homes as a coastal wildfire spread Thursday toward one of the busiest tourist destinations in the state: Myrtle Beach. Most residents returned home by Friday, but at least 69 homes were destroyed by the fire.

“There are just skeletal remains of homes,” said Public Information Coordinator Derrec Becker of the South Carolina Division of Emergency Management. “There have been a few reports of injuries, but we have been very lucky in that respect.’

Hundreds of firefighters, two dozen bulldozers and a water-dropping Black Hawk helicopter are being deployed in the area, but the fire continues to spread ahead of the work and Becker believes it may continue to burn for some time, noting that little short of heavy rains over a prolonged period of time will do anything to quench the fire.

Just off the coast, subdivisions and golf courses have been carved from forest and swamps over decades and the area remain prone to wildfires that spring up in the woods and scrub. Some 30,000 acres burned in 1976.

South Carolina is experiencing a severe drought and conditions are ideal for fires to burn rapidly, especially in the coastal areas.

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