Watch burn piles all the way until extinguished


After multiple field fires were called in on Monday, Sumter Fire Department provided the following information for people who intend to have controlled yard debris fires in the county.

Battalion Chief Joey Duggan said from his experience, most of the time when a fire spreads to the woods or a field, it is caused by a burn pile fire that got out of hand.

Everyone who has a controlled burn is required to build the burn pile at least 50 feet away from structures, watch over the fire the entire time it burns and have an adequate water source on hand, Duggan said.

S.C. Forestry Commission also requires that a firebreak, or hole, is dug around the entire burn pile, according to the commission's website.

Residents are allowed to burn yard debris, no household items, only in the county limits, Duggan said.

He said people are also required to call their local forestry commission number to alert the agency before starting the fire. To give a debris burning notification, call: Sumter County, 1-800-517-9641; Lee County, 1-800-705-8612; and Clarendon County, 1-800-986-3597.

Callers will need to provide information such as when the debris burn will take place, where and leave a contact number, Duggan said.

He said the fire department should also be notified so that first responders know what is happening in the area.

According to S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, other than to burn yard trimmings, state residents are only allowed to have outdoor fires for outdoor fireplaces, campfires, barbecues and bonfires.

Duggan said the word most associated with the spread of controlled burns is "carelessness."

People can be careless in not having the proper tools needed to control the fire, they can be careless by not watching the fire until it goes out, and they can be careless by not researching how to properly burn yard debris, he said.

If a controlled fire spreads and damages someone else's property, the person who started the fire could be charged, he said.

For more information about controlled fires, visit S.C. Forestry Commission's website at and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control website at