BISHOPVILLE - Fire officials raced Tuesday to extinguish a blaze at an illegal dump in Lee County before expected rains cause the blaze to smolder and further threaten air quality in the small Egypt Road community.
As many as 50 people living in the area left their homes Monday night to escape the smoke. The evacuation, most of which was voluntary, remained in effect Tuesday. The fire started Monday afternoon at the landfill 12 miles west of Bishopville near the Kershaw County line.
Thom Berry, a spokesman for the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, said air monitors did not register any dangerous pollutants Monday night, but the agency doesn't have a breakdown of what's in the dump.
Lee County fire Lt. Brandon Holloman said the dump site was filled with household garbage, commercial and industrial waste, the Associated Press reported.
Never miss a local story.
Rain could cause smoke from the fire to hang low to the ground. If the smoke contained any toxins, that could further threaten people in the area.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was enroute to the fire Tuesday and was expected to do further air testing, Berry said. Fire crews from Lee and Darlington counties were among those battling the blaze.
The 3.5-acre site is an unpermitted dump owned by an area resident, Berry said. He said it is not clear who is responsible for the dumping. The resident's son was working with fire officials to see that the blaze was smothered, Berry said.
"The only thing we know with 100 percent certainty is that this is an unpermitted landfill; what may be in it, will have to be determined," Berry said.
- Sammy Fretwell