Blazes will be set in forest

Incendiary devices dropped from helicopters will be used in a series of controlled fires next week on federal lands in McCormick County, S.C., controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Forest Service.

A total of 2,850 acres will be involved in the prescribed burning operation that will begin as early as Monday, depending on weather conditions, according to a synopsis provided by corps spokeswoman Jeanne Hodge.

The area includes 1,734 acres of corps land at Thurmond Lake and 1,093 acres within Sumter National Forest.

The helicopters will drop approximately 12,000 ping-pong-sized balls that ignite when landing on the forest floor. Forest Service personnel on the ground will ensure the fire is contained in the targeted area between McEntire Road at Goose Creek Farm and Leroy's Ferry Drive at Leroy's Ferry Campground.

"Prescribed fire, or a controlled burn, is an important tool used by the Corps and the Forest Service to manage the natural ecosystem and ensure the woodlands' health," said corps District Forester Ean Jones.

The joint project marks the first time the two agencies have partnered on a prescribed fire in this area because of steep gullies and rough terrain. Thanks to the partnership, several miles of fireline will not be needed, which is beneficial for the land and much safer for the firefighters.

"This burn benefits the forest by reducing accumulated natural fuels building up on the lands, thereby reducing the fire hazard to surrounding property owners and to resources on these Federal lands," Mr. Jones said. "By using the Thurmond reservoir as the southwestern end of the burn, we can more easily control the direction and coverage of the fire."

The Forest Service and corps routinely conduct prescribed fires when weather conditions are most likely to reduce the risk of escaped fire and smoky conditions. Mr. Jones said motorists or residents near the burn might see smoke columns or experience reduced visibility in low-lying areas.

For more information, contact Mr. Jones at (864) 333-1114 or toll free at (800) 533-3478, or call William Crolly, with the U.S. Forest Service, at (803) 561-4000.

Reach Rob Pavey at (706) 868-1222 or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com