COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – More than 30 counties across South Carolina are inching closer to drought conditions, including Berkeley, Colleton, Dorchester, Georgetown, and Williamsburg counties.
The South Carolina Drought Response Committee upgraded the drought status to “Incipient Drought” for 34 counties across the state.
Officials with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources said the Incipient status is the first level of drought followed by Moderate, Severe, and Extreme.
Officials said the concern over wildfires was the primary driving factor leading to the drought declaration.
Darryl Jones, forest protection chief for the S.C. Forestry Commission, said recent dry conditions have led to higher-than-normal wildfire activity across South Carolina.
He said the number of wildfires was almost twice the 10-year average in November, and in the first week of December, the Palmetto State is already more than 1.5 times the 10-year average number of fires.
“As the soil, leaves, and debris on the forest floor dries out, wildfires ignite much easier, and once fires start, they spread faster, burn hotter, and become much more difficult to control,” said Jones. “Even though the state received some rain this week, it was not enough to recover the amount of moisture loss experienced, and the grasses, limbs, and leaves where wildfires start easily will dry out again after just a few days without moisture.”
People across the state are encouraged to follow guidance provided by the S.C. Forestry Commission, which includes having a fire break around the area to be burned, have a mechanism to stop the fire if it escapes, stay with the fire until extinguished and notify the Forestry Commission as required by state law when burning yard debris
The South Carolina Drought Response Committee will continue to monitor conditions throughout the winter.