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Burning Ban Decreed as Fires Rage Across South Carolina Precede BENNETTSVILLE, S.C.

March 25, 1991

Undated (AP) _ Outdoor burning has been banned in rural areas of South Carolina, where dry, windy weather has fanned hundreds of forest fires - many started by arsonists and some through carelessness - that have charred thousands of acres.

Firefighters today began to contain a fire that had already burned more than 2,000 acres in South Carolina’s Marlboro County, the state’s largest fire.

And in North Carolina, firefighters battled 180 wind-whipped fires that scorched hundreds of acres Sunday, destroyed tobacco barns and forced residents to flee their homes.

Since Tuesday, 489 fires have charred 7,216 acres of South Carolina, not including the Marlboro County fire, said state Forestry Commission spokesman Ken Cabe. Fire officials said dozens were started by arsonists, but some were the result of careless trash burning.

The Marlboro County fire, north of Wallace near the North Carolina border, had burned more than 2,000 acres and a barn and a mobile home.

Firefighters had about half the fire under control Sunday, and hoped to have it all under control later today, said Joe Felder, Florence district manager for the state Forestry Commission.

Cabe said the blaze moved so quickly Sunday that every time firefighters built fire breaks ″the fire just swept right across them.″

State Forester Jack Gould on Sunday banned all outdoor burning outside incorporated town or city limits. Violators can be fined up to $100 and imprisoned up to 30 days.

Cabe said dry conditions and high wind were making it difficult to fight the fires.

″If we don’t get some rain and we continue to have wind and low humidity, sooner or later we’re going to have a bad one,″ he said.

He said more than 30 fires had been ignited around the state Sunday. On Saturday, South Carolina firefighters battled 80 fires, at least half believed started by arsonists. Seventy-six fires were reported on Friday, 51 believed caused by arsonists.

Jim Schlenker of the North Carolina Forest Service said the main cause of Sunday’s fires in his state was people burning debris.

About 20 residents of Harnett County, N.C., were evacuated from their homes as a precaution Sunday when a blaze roared across 400 acres near Bunnlevel, said Flatwood-Bunnlevel Fire Chief Steve Smith. Swirling wind hampered firefighters as flames skipped across roads, firebreaks and at least one creek.

The only North Carolina structural damage reported was the destruction of four abandoned tobacco barns and an outbuilding.