Fire Crews Smother Blaze

About 10 homes and several condominium units were evacuated Saturday as a fire scorched yards and forest on 62nd Avenue North in Myrtle Beach.

The flames spread quickly in the high afternoon winds, but firefighters from Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach and Horry County were able to save the homes, a church and a gas station from damage.

"The wind is just kicking our butts," said Myrtle Beach Assistant Fire Chief Dan Cimini as flames roared from a patch of roadside forest. "It's moving the fire in different directions and making it tough to get under control."

He said all the city's fire units were helping to fight the fire.

High winds caused the S.C. Forestry Commission to issue a statewide Red Flag Alert on Friday to warn that dangerous fires could occur.

Flames circled the backside of Northside Worship Center and its playground just east of the U.S. 17 Bypass and burned a swath behind several homes on 62nd Avenue North.

Cimini said he did not know how much land was consumed, though he estimated four to five acres.

Crews contained the fire by digging a perimeter, Cimini said. By about 3 p.m., it was dying out.

"It's really not endangering anything or going anywhere, so we'll let it burn," he said.

The cause of the blaze was unknown Saturday.

Jeremy Wernig, who lives nearby, said he saw the fire in its early stages.

"It was like an orange, crazy-looking smoke," he said.

Crowds of residents stood watching from across the street as plumes of smoke drifted through the neighborhood.

Jim Jarrell, who owns a home on Tindal Street, was at a softball game in Carolina Forest when he heard of the fire.

"I came home and charged my irrigation system up so if it catches on the yard, it doesn't burn anything else," Jarrell said.

As the flames waned, some of the homeowners surveyed their blackened, smoldering lawns.

Jonathan Shanks was out spraying down his back yard with a garden hose. The fire burned around his fence and ate up lawns and pine forest on all sides.

"I came out, and it was just coming into the corner of the yard," Shanks said. "It went really fast."

The trunks of trees deep into the forest behind his house were smoking, and his back lawn was dim in the thick haze.

"I would be shocked if it was just four or five acres that burned," he said.