Politics & Government

Federal funds authorized to battle Pickens County wildfires

Greenville News staff reports

A helicopter lifts a bag with water to help firefighters contain the fire at Pinnacle Mountain
A helicopter lifts a bag with water to help firefighters contain the fire at Pinnacle Mountain Greenville News

The fire on Pinnacle Mountain continues to burn and has grown to around 2,200 acres in size.

Light rain has been falling in the area since about 5 a.m Sunday, which has assisted with slowing down the fire’s path, according to Pickens County Emergency Management. All residents that were evacuated were allowed to return home. Residents should stay tuned for updates in what is still considered a dangerous environment.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency has authorized federal funds to reimburse costs to South Carolina to fight the Pinnacle Mountain fire.

This authorization makes FEMA grant funding available to reimburse 75 percent of the eligible firefighting costs for managing, mitigating and controlling the fire. Eligible costs can include labor, equipment and supplies used for fighting the fire and costs for emergency work such as evacuations and sheltering, police barricading and traffic control.

“This wildfire is a major risk to lives and property. FEMA has approved this request to ensure that South Carolina has the resources to fight this fire,” said FEMA Regional Administrator Gracia Szczech. “State and local partners are the frontline responders battling this wildfire, and we will continue to work closely with them.”

The state requested a Fire Management Assistance Grant, and it was granted Saturday. The fire started Tuesday, and at the time of the request, had burned in excess of 1,500 acres of state and private land. The fire was threatening 180 homes around Pinnacle Mountain including the Folsom Rest Subdivision (Sugar Likker Road), Bear Valley Golf Club Subdivision, and other numerous subdivisions along the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Hwy. The fire was also threatening communication towers, infrastructure, utilities, and the Greenville watershed, Jocassee gorges, Gravely wildlife management area (black bear refuge), and Table Rock State Park.

Table Rock State Park has been completely evacuated and fire crews are canvassing the park to make sure all structures can properly be protected if the fire progresses. Pre-planning the park is a precautionary measure and will expedite defense of park structures if necessary.

Pickens County Fire and Rescue personnel are being assisted by many neighboring departments throughout the upstate from Anderson, Oconee, and Greenville Counties. Crews are assisting homeowners with blowing leaves and clearing vegetation from around structures.

"These precautionary measures are being exercised to stay one step ahead of the fire," Pickens County Emergency Management said in a news release Sunday. "Checklists are being given to nearby residences in case further evacuations are necessary in the coming days."

Federal fire management assistance is provided through the President’s Disaster Relief Fund and made available by FEMA to fund firefighting activities when there is a fire threat that could cause a major disaster. Eligible state firefighting costs covered by the aid must first meet a minimum threshold for costs before assistance is provided.

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