Officials seek cause of blazes

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CONWAY, S.C. --- Investigators went to work Monday trying to figure out what ignited hundreds of weekend wildfires in the Carolinas and Virginia, and North Carolina fire crews continued to battle three large blazes.

Horry County firefighters extinguish a fire smoldering in the remains of J's Consignment Auction & Produce after the business burned in Conway, S.C., near Myrtle Beach, on Sunday.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Horry County firefighters extinguish a fire smoldering in the remains of J's Consignment Auction & Produce after the business burned in Conway, S.C., near Myrtle Beach, on Sunday.

The strong winds that spread the flames in the rain-starved region eased Monday, but more than 4,000 acres were still on fire in eastern North Carolina. No injuries have been reported.

"The wind died down and that seemed to help us a lot," North Carolina forestry spokesman Brian Haines said Monday.

The earliest rain in the forecast for the Carolinas was Tuesday.

Mr. Haines said the fires had burned 70 structures, including some homes, and estimated damage at $948,500.

North Carolina's Forestry Service had cited two people for allegedly starting fires in Hoke County. Nearly 57 warnings also had been issued, mostly for improper debris burning, Haines said. Some fires were blamed on fallen power lines.

By midday Monday, North Carolina counted more than 300 fires that had burned nearly 9,400 acres. The biggest had covered 2,000 acres by Monday.

In South Carolina, forestry officials had issued about two-dozen citations.

Gov. Mark Sanford on Monday toured the damage left by a blaze in Horry County that destroyed five homes and at least one business the day before. The fire sent smoke billowing above Conway, a city of about 11,000 people, about 15 miles northwest of Myrtle Beach and briefly forced the evacuation of about 60 homes. No injuries were reported, and the cause of the blaze is still under investigation, authorities said.

Mr. Sanford praised local and state firefighters for stopping the fires from spreading and comforted some of the families who lost everything.


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