Coastal blaze forces residents from homes

CONWAY, S.C. --- A wind-whipped forest fire damaged a dozen small structures, scorching backyards and damaging homes near the South Carolina coast Sunday.


About 60 homes were evacuated for several hours as the tree-high flames spread, and some families took shelter in a church. Late Sunday, residents were allowed to return home. Officials said no injuries were reported.

The blaze sent smoke billowing above the small city, and dozens of firefighters took about six hours to contain it to a wedge-shaped area of between 150 and 200 acres bounded by three roads.

Horry County Fire Rescue spokesman Todd Cartner said firefighters would monitor the blaze through the night, but that fighting it had grown easier as winds died down at the end of a day that saw more than 100 wildfires smolder across South Carolina.

Mr. Cartner said officials weren't immediately able to get to every part of the blaze, which was first reported shortly after 1 p.m., and it wasn't clear how many of the damaged and destroyed structures were homes, sheds or other small buildings.

At the height of the blaze Sunday afternoon, witnesses said flames reached the tops of trees and crept toward homes, melting siding. Police announced the orders to evacuate over loudspeakers.

Red Cross officials planned to keep a church shelter open in case people could not get back into their homes.