Myrtle Beach wildfires cause state of emergency in South Carolina
The Myrtle Beach wildfires in Horry County, South Carolina has caused a state of emergency as the bush fire has destroyed thousands of hectares of land - in the state's busiest tourist area. Much of the damage is centered around Barefoot Landing.
The flames are currently about 3 miles west of Highway 17. Firefighters are continuing to battle the flames throughout the night.
About 70 homes have been destroyed and over 40 structures have been affected in the 7,000 to 8,000 area. An assessment will take place later today to see how many homes were destroyed or damaged.
No injuries have been reported.
About 2,500 people have been evacuated, mostly in the Barefoot Landing area near North Myrtle Beach.
The fires started just after midnight last night, and almost destroyed one of the most popular tourist destinations. Hundreds had to leave their homes in the middle of the night.
"It's still a very intensely burning fire — very extreme fire weather," said Mike Bozzo, a state Forestry Commission commander.
Police banged on doors to awaken residents overnight as strong winds helped the blaze cut a four-mile-wide swath through forests and scrub toward the Barefoot Landing development, a sprawling complex of houses, condominiums and golf courses separated from the main route through Myrtle Beach by the Intracoastal Waterway.
"It was like something out of a movie," said Danielle Prater, 25, of Charlotte, N.C., who woke her aunt and uncle at 1:30 a.m. after seeing flames several feet high racing through a neighbor's back yard. "I ran and got them and we got out of there as fast as we could."
This is the biggest fire this area has seen in over 30 years, and firefighters have said this blaze was fueled by tinder-dry land and high winds.
Evacuations are currently taking place and residents can go to the shelter at the 'House of Blues' or the Myrtle Beach Aquatic Center'.
The Barefoot Resort and the Pelican Bay subdivision have been evacuated as well.
Citizens are reminded that shelters cannot accept pets. There is limited space for evacuees’ pets at either the Murrells Inlet Veterinary Hospital at 843-651-3355 or the Saint Frances Animal Hospital at 843-249-1988
Highways 31 and 22 are both partly closed, but Highway 17 and 90 are currently open, but residents are advised to travel through this area slowly due to thick smoke and poor visibality issues.
All schools are closed in the area and parents could pick up their children until 10:30am this morning.
The blaze has proved to be especially challenging because it has spread into a few Carolina Bays and firefighters say that once it does this, a tropical downpour is needed to put it out.
The National Guard are dropping water from helicopters above the fires but high winds and low humidity are making it difficult.
The National Weather Service has issued a smoke advisory for the region as smoke continues to pour into the sky.
It is not known what has caused the fire at this time.
The local McDonalds are pulling together to help the Red Cross effort.
Myrtle Beach, Florence and Wilmington McDonald Owner/Operators are donating $5000 in cash which is being matched by McDonald's Corporate, for a total of $10,000 in cash contributions to the American Red Cross Fire Relief.
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