Three years after battling massive blaze in Upstate, Pickens Co. crews ready to lend a hand statewide

Three years after battling massive blaze, Pickens Co. crews ready to lend a hand statewide

PICKENS COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - Three years ago this week, smoke filled the air in Pickens County and across the state.

Holly Springs Fire Chief Mike Staton and his crews were the first ones to respond to the Pinnacle Mountain Fire.

"To see this part of our little portion of country burning like it was, we wondered what it was going to look like after," he said.

An escaped campfire spread and began moving its way across the scenic wooded areas. Local agencies responding to the wildfire had to call in some help as the blaze raged on.

Greg Hayes is the director for Table Rock Retreat and Conference Center. His campground housed dozens of people called in to help fight the fire.

"It was a little bit unnerving to watch the smoke go across the mountain," Hayes recalled.

His staff cooked for the crews. Help arrived from all over the state and country. An average of about 200 people worked the fire every single day. Donations poured in. Firefighters spent Thanksgiving working to put out the fire.

After about a month, the fire was put out. Denise Kwiatek, the director for Pickens County Emergency Management, said when everything was said and done, the fire consumed more than 10,000 acres. There was a sense of relief when it was 100% contained.

"It was very overwhelming like someone took heavy bricks off your shoulders saying, ‘You're okay. It's going to be okay," she said.

There were no deaths and no structures were damaged by the Pinnacle Mountain Fire.

Officials in Pickens County said the response by the community and other agencies really made the difference.

"Our state is a family,” Staton said. “If somebody in your family gets hurt or needs help, they show up and that's what they did here."

Now, Pickens County can return the favor all thanks to a new trailer filled with equipment used to fight wildfires. The trailer and new equipment were purchased with the help of a $25,000 grant from Duke Energy.

"If there are other emergency services in need around the state, we definitely want to help and this is a good way to provide the resources other places provided us," Pickens County Emergency Management Deputy Director Pierce Womack said.

The trailer contains fire rakes, helmets, portable fire shelters, and just about anything else an agency would need to contain a wildfire. It can be deployed statewide.

South Carolina Fire Marshal Jonathan Jones said this is going to be a very important resource in the years to follow.

“At some point, there is going to be another community that is overwhelmed by a wild land fire and this trailer will be there to help,” Jones said.

Copyright 2019 WIS. All rights reserved.