McCLELLANVILLE, SC (WCSC) - Highway 17 North has been reopened Thursday morning and a 1,100-acre wildfire is almost completely under control in the McClellanville area. Officials say the fire is now 85 percent under control.
Brush fires popped up all over the area Wednesday, including the largest wildfire in the McClellanville area and several smaller fires in Colleton County. The McClellanville wildfire shut down traffic on US Highway 17 at the Georgetown County line since Wednesday afternoon. That road is the main link between Myrtle Beach and Charleston. It was reopened just before 8 a.m. Thursday.
Dozens of firefighters remain on scene monitoring and keeping out hot spots. Crews are attacking the fire from the ground and the air. Many agencies are assisting with a plan to go to the South Santee area to secure a wet line 50 feet from the road near the houses that were threatened. A wet line is an area that is physically soaked to prevent fire from crossing.
Fire officials say they are "using fire to fight the wildfire" by implementing a controlled burn. That means firefighters are targeting the back end of the fire first, and are moving their way up. The wooded area impacted by the fire is mostly private property, owned by White Oak Forestry.
"It's being fought with tractors," said Awendaw Fire Department Battalion Chief Peter Rogers. "They're going in with a blade and they're cutting and the crews are literally standing by these structures to keep the fire from that structure or any of the property around it."
The fire had authorities going to door-to-door to the communities of Germantown and Hampton Plantation for a voluntary evacuation. According to Scott Hawkins with the South Carolina Forestry Commission, the largest size of the fire was 1,100 acres. Some power and utility lines were reported down.
The fire burned all the way up to the Santee River, which created a natural break in the fire's path, Hawkins said. No origin or cause of the fire has been determined, but the South Carolina Forestry Commission will begin investigating Thursday.
Major John Clark with the Charleston County Sheriff's Office says that three structures have been destroyed in the fire, which include two commercial buildings and a shed.
Transportation resources are standing by for residents in need of assistance with evacuation and Charleston County's Volunteer Fire and Rescue Squad continues to assist with door-to-door notification of the voluntary evacuation.
The Salvation Army has set up a canteen at the on-scene command post in support of responding public safety personnel.
The American Red Cross has closed a shelter they opened earlier at St. James Santee Elementary School. People who were there are being allowed to return home. The school will be open as normal tomorrow morning.
The Awendaw Fire Department responded to the South Santee area and fire departments from Mt. Pleasant, Isle of Palms and North Charleston are assisting the Awendaw Fire Department. Residents report that at least 50 fire trucks are on scene.
The Awendaw Fire Department, Charleston County Emergency Management Department, Charleston County EMS, Charleston County Sheriff's Office and the Volunteer Fire & Rescue Squad are handling the emergency situation. The following agencies assisted in the incident: Alvin Fire, American Red Cross, Berkeley County Fire, Bonneau, City of Charleston Fire, Coastal Crisis Chaplaincy, Forestry: federal, state and local, Georgetown County Fire, Isle of Palms, James Island Fire, Jamestown Fire, Lake Moultrie Fire, Macadonia, Mount Pleasant Fire and Police, Myrtle Beach Public Safety, North Charleston Fire, Santee Circle Fire, St. Andrews Fire, St. John's Fire, Shulerville Fire, Sullivan's Island Fire, Summerville Fire, Whitesville Fire have all assisted in getting this fire under control.
Witnesses first reported seeing dense smoke around 2:47 p.m. Wednesday. At 4 p.m. Wednesday, officials discovered that about 200 acres were burning in McClellanville on South Santee Road.