Declaration follows weeks of below-normal rainfall
Following weeks of below-normal rainfall in the area, Union County and 33 other counties in the state have been upgraded to incipient drought status. Incipient is the first level of drought, followed by moderate, severe, and extreme. Concern over wildfires was the primary factor leading to the drought declaration.
Darryl Jones, forest protection chief for the SC Forestry Commission, said that the ongoing dry conditions have led to higher-than-normal wildfire activity across the state. Last month, the number of wildfires was nearly twice the 10-year average. For the first week of December, the state has already seen 1.5 times the 10-year average number of fires. As the soil, leaves, and debris on the forest floor dries out, wildfires ignite much easier, and once they start, they spread faster, burn hotter, and become much more difficult to control. The rain the state has seen this week was not enough to recover the moisture loss experienced.
The SC Drought Response Committee, which is responsible for the drought declaration, encourages everyone to follow guidance provided by the SC Forestry Commission, which includes having a fire break around the area to be burned, have a mechanism to stop the fire if it escapes, stay with the fire until extinguished, and to notify the Forestry Commission as required by state law when burning yard debris. The number to call in Union County to notify the Forestry Commission is 1-800-517-9642.
The other nine Upstate counties are in normal drought status, along with Charleston, Beaufort, and Jasper counties.