Fire season starts early

The South Carolina Forestry Commission has lifted the red flag fire alert it posted a week ago, but the chance of igniting a wildfire remains high, and residents need to take care.

The alert was posted last week because of high winds and low humidity throughout much of the state, ripe conditions for a wildfire. The alert recommended no burning outside.

During the alert, firefighters fought 156 fires on more than 475 acres in the state. They also battled a fire of almost 1,000 acres in Richland County that began before the alert was posted.

Fires pose a hazard all year long. But with ongoing drought conditions and lack of rain, the forest fire season, which usually arrives in late winter, has started earlier, and chances of a blaze are higher than in past years.

Since July 1, the number of wildfires and the acreage burned is more than double that of a typical year, according to Forestry Commission officials. So far this year, almost 1,300 fires have burned 5,500 acres.

Residents need to take sensible precautions. This is a bad time to consider burning brush or leaves. Take extra care when tending campfires, cooking pits or even home barbecues. Put out cigarettes before discarding them.

We have seen the damage that was caused by a wind-whipped wildfire on the West Coast. We'd hate to see anything even close to that happen in South Carolina.