Pinnacle Mountain fire 35 percent contained

For more than a week, Roy Holcombe has been stacking cases of water and filling folding tables with chips and snacks at the Holly Springs Fire Station where he is assistant chief.

Every day, sometimes a few times, someone comes by with a truck and takes a load or two to a the Table Rock Wesleyan Camp and retreat Center, which more than 200 firefighters are using as a base camp for the Pinnacle Mountain fire efforts.

“If they’re ever able to put a dent in the donations it fills right back up the next day,” Holcombe said.

Joe Tollison, a board member of the camp, filled up his pickup truck, including the back seat and passenger seat, with snacks and toiletries for the firefighters.

The biggest challenge they’ll face this weekend will be shifting and accelerating winds, said Holly Welch, public information officer for the South Carolina Forestry Commission.

She said the winds have been at around 4 to 7 mph from the south and meterologists are expecting to get winds from the north and northwest at 15 mph with gusts up to 30 mph starting Saturday morning.

That could put homes near the fire at the most serious risk yet.

A shelter in East Pickens Baptist Church at 2244 Gentry Memorial Highway in Pickens is shceduled to remain open until at least noon Sunday.

If citizens feel the need to evacuate and need assistance, they can call 864-898-2437. They also can call 864-898-5373 for informations on the status of the fire and evacuations.

There is a fire line surrounding the blaze, bulldozed paths of nothing but dirt. According to a statement issued Friday night by the Forestry Commission, 90 perent of the area inside the fire breaks has been burned out.

Firefighters from the Forestry Commission as well as extra crews who were recently working on fires in North Carolina went out into the woods Friday to strengthen those lines by tearing down brush and tamping down hot spots.

It’s long, hard and grueling work requiring hand tools and chainsaws.

“We are making good progress,” Welch said.

Some of the workers use their bare hands to make sure areas are cool to the touch, Welch said.

Warm temperatures Friday made it an even tougher job, as the crews had to march up steep, hilly terrain and work through areas that had earlier this week been intentionally burned.

Cooler temperatures will not help much, as the drop in temperature is expected to lower humidity, Welch said.

She said firefighters learned overnight that a structure had burned in the initial wildfire, an old building built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, which disbanded in 1942. The building was known as the Halfway Shelter near the Panther Gap and it was burned about a week ago but not discovered until Thursday, Welch said.

Aside from that, firefighters are proud they haven’t lost so much as a dog house, said Duncan Fire Chief Barry Frost.

He said the fire has been slow moving and with flames that have either faded to embers or remain lower than knee-high.

“It’s like a 5,000 acre leaf fire,” Frost said.

He and other firefighters spent Friday standing by at Aunt Sue’s Country Corner, a shop off S.C. 11. Their job, and that of others at other staging locations surrounding the fire, is to protect homes if the fire breaks the line.

Karen Curtis, who lives about a mile east of the fire line, stopped by Aunt Sue’s to look at the latest maps of the fire.

“I’m not freaking out,” she said. “I just want to be informed.”

Curtis said she and her husband, who has since died, moved to the area in 2012 from the South Carolina coast.

“I think I’d rather go through a hurricane than a fire,” she said.

Her biggest concern is the winds and the possibility of the fire jumping the line.

The fire has spread to 5,095 acres after a controlled burn Thursday of more than 1,000 acres joined with the wildfire, Welch said. Friday was the ninth day firefighters have worked to control the fire, which is the biggest forest fire ever recorded in the Upstate.

The fire is 35 percent contained, according to a statement issued Friday night by Pickens County Emergency Management.

This weekend will be the test of the fire line, which firefighters expect to hold, Welch said.

In a gymnasium at the base camp, where the firefighters eat those donated snacks and grab the donated water bottles, there are a few dozen handmade thank you cards on the wall that were written by Six Mile Elementary School students.

One of the favorites, several firefighters said, is a card that has drawings of trees on fire.

It said: “Keep trying do not give up. I hope you be brave.”

Independent Mail


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