UNION COUNTY — The teamwork of various responders kept a forest fire from blazing out of control on Monday.
Union County Emergency Management Director Rob Fraim was in his office at Union County 9-1-1 when he got word that a tree had fallen across some power lines around the 5500 block of Whitmire Highway in Union, blocking the entire roadway.
“I went out there because you never know what is going to happen,” Fraim said.
When the tree fell across the live power lines, the lines sparked and ignited the grass and wooded area along the roadway. Fraim said Broad River Electrical Cooperative was contacted, and several BREC employees were nearby on Hwy. 72. Fraim said everyone involved had to be sure power to the lines was shut off before fire fighting could begin.
“We initially were sitting there waiting, and the flames got around 8 feet high before we could start fighting it,” Fraim said. “The power lines were still hot, and you have to protect your firefighters before you can start fighting it.”
Fraim said BREC responded swiftly and arrived with a chainsaw to cut the tree and clear the roadway.
“As soon as they told us lines were dead, we started spraying the fire,” Fraim said.
Fraim said one lane of traffic on Whitmire Hwy. was reopened within 10-15 minutes.
Fraim also said the Newberry County Fire Department was also quick to respond to the fire, which was relatively close to Newberry County.
“They responded pretty quickly from Whitmire,” Fraim said. “If not, it could have gotten out of hand pretty fast — a lot worse than it was. Our mutual aid with them helped us out.”
Fraim said others who responded included the Santuc Fire Department, the South Carolina Highway Patrol, South Carolina DNR and South Carolina DOT.
Fraim said a little more than 200 yards were burned by the fire, which was controlled within less than an hour.
“I was pretty impressed with the quick response and teamwork,” Fraim said. “Everybody participated and it was well handled.”
Fraim said the South Carolina DOT cleaned the roadway after the tree was removed, and the forestry service dug a line around the fire to prevent spreading or respark.
“It was pretty far away from the fire department,” Fraim said. “We’re really lucky to have our volunteer fire departments.”
Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-762-4128.