A Year After Wildfire, Myrtle Beach Looks Back — and Forward

One year after a major wildfire swept through communities in Horry County, South Carolina, officials and residents are taking time to look at their ongoing exposure to wildfire danger, according to a report in the Myrtle Beach Sun News (" Horry County communities prepare for the next wildfire," by Claudia Lauer). Says the paper, "It's been almost a mantra in the days, months and now year after the 2009 wildfire destroyed about 75 homes and damaged dozens more: It's not a question of if there will be another fire, but when." Making landscapes more fire-resistant is part of the response, the paper notes: "Barefoot Resort residents are no longer required to use pine straw in their mulching beds surrounding their houses, something that many public safety officials said contributed to the rapid spread of the wildfire when it entered Barefoot." Improving the local emergency warning system is also a hot issue in Myrtle Beach. WBTW News13 interviewed North Myrtle Beach homeowner Melinda Chappell, who says her two dogs get the credit for awakening her just in time to make her escape, just minutes before the onrushing fire destroyed her home (" One year later: North Myrtle Beach woman talks about rebuilding after Horry County wildfire," by Aisha Khan). Best of all, says Chappell? She even had time to grab her golf clubs. But her home, along with four neighboring houses, was reduced to ashes in the conflagration. Local policymakers are also looking at firefighter access issues. Area towns are working on improving roads into the some hard-to-reach parts of the area, according to the Sun News (" After Horry County wildfire, a push for more exits," by Claudia Lauer.) But that issue is complicated by sensitive coastal environmental concerns: "... providing more access isn't just a matter of finding the funds," reports the Sun News. "It also requires a plan that protects animals and habitat in a nearby wilderness preserve." The stumbling blocks include wetland issues, red-cockaded woodpecker habitat, and accommodating the needs of wild bears, the paper reports: "County Director of Infrastructure and Regulation Steve Gosnell said the county's plan calls for an 8-foot fence with triple layers of barbed wire to prevent bears from wandering into traffic. There would also be three bear crossings."