Officials urge against outdoor burning

Dry conditions are pushing authorities to ask residents to douse any plans for outdoor burning until conditions improve.

"We're recommending people wait until we get some more rain," said York County Fire Marshal Randy Thompson.

Despite receiving about a half-inch of rain from June 2-3, conditions don't appear to be changing soon. The area experienced another dry week last week and temperatures are expected to remain in the upper-80s and low-90s with limited chance of rainfall for the next few days.

That's why officials want people to postpone burning trash, yard waste and construction debris until the dry condition subside.

On Wednesday, the S.C. Drought Response Committee changed the state's drought condition to moderate for the first time since 2003.

Eddie Murphy, Chester County's director of emergency management, said he's seen a spike in small brush fires over the past month. The dry conditions have raised concerns among farmers operating hay balers in dry fields, Murphy said.

About three acres caught fire recently when a piece of hay-baling equipment sparked and ignited a grass fire.

"It is very, very dry," Murphy said. "The ground is just parched. It cracks under your feet."

He's asking people who can't hold off on outdoor burning to use "extra caution."

In York County, Thompson echoed the same word of warning. He said summer foliage -- normally slow to burn -- is especially dry and burning quicker than normal.

While state officials haven't issued any warnings about dangerous conditions, Thompson wants York County residents to burn cautiously.

"It can really get away from you quickly," he said.

• Obtain a free permit from the S.C. Forestry Commission. It's required by law, and there's a $250 fine if you burn without one. To receive a permit in York County, call (800) 517-9644. In Chester County, call (800) 986-3595.

• If you live inside city or town limits, call your local fire department to get a permit. Rock Hill: (803) 329-7220; York: (803) 684-1700; Fort Mill: (803) 547-5511; Clover: (803) 222-9495; Chester: (803) 581-1441.

• Clear the surrounding area of any flammable material, including grass and brush.

• Have adequate tools, water supply and personnel on hand at all times.

• Plan to stay with the fire until the fire it is completely out.