Collaboration comes quick in battling wildfires - - Columbia, South Carolina

Collaboration comes quick in battling wildfires

(Source: WIS) (Source: WIS)

For several weeks on Pinnacle Mountain, a massive wildfire has continued to leave its mark on the Palmetto State.

The flames left more than 10,000 acres burned and required the work of hundreds of emergency crews to extinguish. Among those who were called to help were members of the Columbia Fire Department, who stayed for nearly a week.

“We were asked to provide assets from equipment as well as manpower,” said Capt. Brick Lewis.

The firefighters did what they could to help.

“We worked on a daily basis to make sure that the fire line stayed intact and nowhere did the fire jump,” said Battalion Chief Brannon Taylor.

State forestry officials said the response has to be quick in a situation that can be this scary. The South Carolina State Forestry Commission can move its resources statewide to battle a growing wildfire. South Carolina’s firefighter mobilization plan also allows countless firefighting teams, like that of Columbia’s, to be called in. If the fire grows, the calls for more aid and manpower may do so as well.

“It ramps up very quickly and it’s assessed by somebody who gets there first and then whatever success you might have determines who you bring in next,” said SC State Forester Gene Kodama. “In this case, we ended up bringing in capacity from far, far away…Utah, Oregon, western states.”

The problem, however, is there are only so many resources to go around. As the state tackles its own wildfires, it can be near impossible to provide help in others like the one still burning in Tennessee.

“You can only take one at a time,” Kodama said.

Officials who manage the state’s firefighter mobilization plan said the other issue with fighting fires across state lines is the cost.

If first responders from the Midlands are sent to fight a fire in the Upstate, it comes at no cost because it falls under mutual aid agreements. If they were to go to Tennessee, that state would have to reimburse South Carolina for the cost of providing resources.

The state forestry commission expects it will be more time before the wildfire on Pinnacle Mountain is fully suppressed.

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