Originally created 08/30/98

Cause of 10-acre blaze likely to remain a mystery



BELVEDERE -- Fire officials said it may be impossible to determine what sparked a brush fire Saturday that burned about 10 acres in Aiken County.

The blaze broke out in a wooded area at about 3 p.m. some 100 yards behind the Marketplace Winn-Dixie near the intersection of Interstate 20 and U.S. Highway 25 in Belvedere.

The fire spread through the area, fueled by 8 to 12 mph winds, fire officials said.

Seven trucks and 30 firefighters from Belvedere, North Augusta and Merriwether battled the blaze.

Belvedere Fire Chief Ernest Hooks said wind caused the fire to spread quicker than usual, but conditions could have been worse.

"It's not as dry as it has been, so that's one advantage," he said. "One advantage we have is that the fire is not spreading that fast because of the thick pines."

Chief Hooks said pine trees slowed the fire because they were growing close together, creating a natural barrier.

A South Carolina Forestry Commission bulldozer was used to plow a 10-foot break around the area to prevent the fire from spreading.

The fire was contained at about 4:30 p.m. and posed no threat to the grocery store or any other nearby residents or structures, Chief Hooks said.

No injuries were reported, but one Belvedere firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion.

North Augusta Public Safety Lt. Ronnie DeLaughter said they may never know what caused the fire, but noted that the area is heavily used by all-terrain vehicles.

He said the burned area will have to be watched during the next several days.

"We've got to watch it and make sure it (doesn't) jump the break," Lt. DeLaughter said. "It will take several days unless it rains."