Home » Protection » Fire & Burning » Fire resources » Wildfire facts

Wildfire facts

Fire towers were used for 65 years to detect wildfires.
  • The SC Forestry Commission was established in 1927. From the beginning, an important part of the agency´s mission has been forest fire protection.
  • In 1929-30, West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company (now Westvaco) established a fire lookout tower near Summerville. It was the state´s first tower dedicated to protecting private woodlands.
  • The first Forestry Commission lookout tower was built in 1930 near Camden by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The tower network eventually included more than 130 towers.
  • The Forestry Commission lookout tower system was decommissioned in 1994. Fire detection is now handled through public reporting and aerial surveillance.
  • In 1945, South Carolina became the first southern state to offer statewide forest fire protection.
  • The Forestry Commission´s first use of two-way radios for firefighter communication was in 1947. 
  • Ninety-eight percent of all wildfires in South Carolina are caused by people. 
  • Careless debris burning is our leading wildfire cause. 
  • The second most important wildfire cause is woods arson.
  • South Carolina´s wildfire season is usually from late winter to early spring.
  • March is historically our worst month for wildfire. The most wildfires ever recorded in one month was 3,724 in March of 1985. 
  • The largest wildfire on record in South Carolina was a 30,000 acre blaze in Horry County in April, 1976. 
  • The state record for the most wildfires in a 12 month period is 14,405 fires recorded between July 1, 1980 and June 30, 1981.
  • The most acreage burned in a 12 month period is 240,504 acres, between July 1, 1949 and June 30, 1950.
  • South Carolina´s worst rural-urban interface fire was the Highway 31 Fire in April of 2009. The fire burned 19,000 acres and 76 homes in Horry County.
  • The largest mountain fire in South Carolina on record is the Pinnacle Mountain Fire, started by an escaped campfire on November 9, 2016. The fire burned 10,623 acres in and around Table Rock State Park. 
  • Only 3 firefighters have been fatally burned by wildfires in South Carolina. One was a civilian and two were employees of forest industry. No Forestry Commission firefighters have been killed by wildfires.
  • Forestry Commission firefighters respond to about 3,000 fires per year. 
  • About 18,000 acres is burned each year by wildfire in South Carolina.
  • Probably the worst week for wildland firefighters in South Carolina was March 30- April 5, 1966. During this period ten fires burned in excess of 1500 acres each, the largest burning over 7,000 acres. For several days, more than 200 new fires occurred each day. 
  • The most intensive forest fire prevention effort ever mounted in the United States was the Forestry Commission´s Gimme 12 campaign following Hurricane Hugo.