Horry County fire has caused ‘significant loss;’ Red Cross opens shelter

akelley@thesunnews.comMarch 16, 2013 

— A large fire at Windsor Green in Carolina Forest has caused “signficant damage” and touched numerous buildings, burning some to the ground. Plumes of black smoke were sent billowing into the evening sky. Burning buildings could be heard crackling from hundreds of feet away as they were consumed.

Horry County Fire Rescue responded to the fire around 5 p.m. Spokeswoman Leslie Yancey said it began as a brush fire, then spread quickly into neighboring condos and single family dwellings. There has been “significant loss,” Yancey said, but no injuries have been reported. Firefighters are still battling the blaze, but it has been “contained to one area,” Yancey said.

The Red Cross has opened a shelter at Ocean Bay Middle School and Yancey urged all residents who left their homes to check in even if they don’t require shelter, so that emergency personnel can ensure that all residents are accounted for.

Witnesses said between nine and 15 buildings had been destroyed, but there was not yet official word on the total damage.

Saturday night, Horry County Fire Rescue reported that the fire chief had instituted a burn ban for all unincorporated areas of the county until further notice.

Traffic in the area backed up earlier in the evening with drivers both trying to leave the area and slowing to watch the smoke. The Horry County Sheriff’s Office urged drivers to avoid the area if at all possible.

Residents from the area gathered near Carolina Forest Elementary School, where some were mourning the loss of their pets.

Heather Johnson was at the school in the early evening. Her mother Linda Sommer lives in the Windsor Green neighborhood and called her crying, saying her house was on fire and one of her dogs was still inside.

Some golfers picked her up and took her to the clubhouse on the Wizard.

Myra Sells lives in Windsor Green with her husband. She saw the smoke, grabbed her purse and her husband’s lock box. “I told him to follow me,” she said. “He was behind me. I haven't seen him since.”

After being told that authorities were reporting no injuries, she gave a heavy sigh of relief and her eyes welled up. Sells said that as long her husband, 83-year-old Bill Anderson, is OK, they can replace everything else.

The fire came the same day that the Forestry Commission issued a red flag fire weather alert for the entire state.

A statement issued by the commission Saturday said weather conditions, including wind gusts of up to 30 miles per hour in some areas, low relative humidity, and warm temperatures, will contribute to an elevated fire danger level. The alert will remain in effect until it's lifted by the commission.

By 5 p.m. Saturday, the commission was battling 58 fires across the state.

Forestry officials ask anyone thinking about burning yard debris to wait until after it rains again.

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