Dry weather and gusty winds over the weekend kept firefighters busy battling big blazes in Chester County.
"We had a real busy, tense afternoon on the western side of the county," said Chester County Emergency Director Eddie Murphy about Saturday's wildfires. Sunday was much calmer, as the clouds likely held off the winds responsible for rapidly spreading the fires.
The National Weather Service has issued a fire weather watch for upstate South Carolina from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. today, as winds are expected to reach 30 mph. A Red Flag Fire Alert also continues Monday in 13 counties, including Lancaster.
More than 445 wildfires have been reported statewide this month, according to the S.C. Forestry Commission.
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More than 18 acres caught on fire around 12:45 p.m. Saturday, destroying a well house and some small outbuildings along Cornwell Road, said South Chester Fire Chief Blair White.
That fire was caused by a man burning trash, White said.
It took about 25 firefighters from four departments more than two hours to control the burn. The South Carolina Forestry Commission also provided assistance, White said.
Before that fire was out, two other blazes were ignited in the county.
A huge plume of smoke could be seen for miles along Pinckney Road after several older junk cars caught on fire, Murphy said.
The other fire spread across 10 acres and multiple properties off S.C. 72, about halfway between Chester and Union County.
In the midst of the fire action, emergency crews were called to Carolina Skydive, which operates out of the Chester County Municipal Airport. A person parachuting was transported to Piedmont Medical Center with back injuries after a hard landing, Murphy said.
Although it was windy Saturday, Murphy said weather was not likely a factor in the hard landing.
"We had all that simultaneously going on for several hours," Murphy said. "Before they were done with one fire, they were called to another emergency, straining the county."
York County also saw an increase in grass and woods fires, especially on Friday when winds were strongest, said Cotton Howell, county emergency management director.
"All the fire departments have been really busy," Howell said, noting the fires were not significant.
No one was injured in any of the weekend blazes.
South Carolina forestry officials are on high alert as warm temperatures, low humidity and high winds increase the fire danger across the state.
The Red Flag alert warns that fire danger is increasing and that outdoor fires may become difficult to control. Residents are asked to postpone outdoor burning until conditions improve.
The Forestry Commission battled more than 70 brush fires Saturday in its Pee Dee region, which includes Horry and Georgetown counties.
The coastal Carolinas fell prey to a weather system of high winds and mild temperatures that caused havoc up and down the mid-Atlantic coast, with fires blazing from South Carolina to Maryland.
In central Virginia, Rockingham County firefighters and the U.S. Forest Service spent much of Saturday battling a fire that had engulfed 300 acres of forest.
In North Carolina, State Forestry Service spokesman Brian Haines told WRAL-TV in Raleigh that about 130 fires were being fought across the state over the weekend. Winds were expected to exacerbate a wildfire burning near Chimney Rock in the western part of the state that has already scorched 1,400 acres. Weather conditions favorable for wildfires, including low relative humidity and stiff winds, are expected to continue for the next few days.