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Fire suppression

How we fight fire

The primary tool to create firebreaks is a tractor plow unit, consisting of a modified bulldozer that is equipped with a fire plow and blade. These units allow firefighters to rapidly create firebreaks near the fire, while protecting the firefighter from direct contact with the heat and flames.

Protecting the resource
The South Carolina Forestry Commission is the lead agency for wildfire suppression on 13.6 million acres of forested and agricultural land in South Carolina. To protect public safety and the valuable forest resource, the agency uses highly trained wildland firefighters and specialized equipment and techniques. In cooperation with local fire departments, the SCFC suppresses approximately 2,000 fires that burn roughly 16,000 acres in an average year.

Suppression tactics and equipment
With a statewide computer-aided dispatch system, the SCFC mobilizes specially equipped firefighting bulldozers, wildland fire engines and even hand crews to fight wildfires. Since most wildfires occur in remote areas and often far from water sources, the primary way wildfires are suppressed is by the creation of firebreaks – removing vegetation and debris to expose bare mineral soil. The width of the break depends on the type of fuel in which the fire is burning and the weather conditions. 

The primary tool to create firebreaks is a tractor plow unit, consisting of a modified bulldozer that is equipped with a fire plow and blade. These units allow firefighters to rapidly create firebreaks near the fire, while protecting the firefighter from direct contact with the heat and flames. In mountainous areas where tractor plow units cannot operate, specially trained hand crews of 10-20 firefighters use tools such as fire rakes, pulaskis and shovels to construct firebreaks. In wet areas, low ground pressure equipment, including firetracks, is used to deliver water. Drip torches are also used to widen firebreaks by burning out fuels between the break and the oncoming fire. 

Forestry Commission dispatchers use a computer-aided system to locate and dispatch the closest available resource to respond to wildfires.

Dispatch operations
The agency’s three state-of-the-art, computer-aided dispatch centers – located at each of the Forestry Commission’s three regional offices in Florence, Newberry and Walterboro – manage astounding volumes of communications traffic as they not only coordinate closest available resources (firefighters, equipment and other personnel) in response to wildland fires, but also field an average of 39,000 calls from the public every year for everything from arson reporting to prescribed burning approvals.

SCFC airplane
SCFC pilots help locate fires.

Air operations
Aircraft are used to help locate wildfires and are also used as an eye in the sky to improve safety when firefighters are working. SCFC pilots relay important information to firefighters about fire behavior, fuels, obstacles and structures threatened. When special situations arise, aerial tankers and helicopters are available from other sources to assist by dropping water on fires. 


Fire stations in South Carolina
The South Carolina Forestry Commission maintains a list of fire stations in the state. The current listing of known fire stations and their physical location (including latitude and longitude) is obtained using 2011 NAIP aerial photography, fire department web sites, county Tax Assessors online property data, county GIS department data, Google© street view, and the efforts of our field personnel over the last 20+ years. Please let us know of any additions or changes that need to be made.