MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – Firefighters continued to battle a blaze in the Myrtle Beach area that has destroyed at least 69 homes, damaged 100 more, consumed more than 15,000 acres of land and has left a thick, gray smoke hanging over the area.

It could be days before the fire is under control, said Scott Hawkins, spokesman for the South Carolina Forestry Commission.

“It’s a big fire and it may get worse before it gets better,” Hawkins said.

Gov. Mark Sanford declared a state of emergency for Horry County.

“This has already proved to be a devastating event for Horry County, and it isn’t over,” Sanford said.

Sixty-nine homes are confirmed destroyed in North Myrtle Beach, according to Mayor Marilyn Hatley. Twenty-seven homes suffered severe damage and eight vehicles have been destroyed, she said.

Most of the homes that were destroyed were in Barefoot Resort. Residents in that area and the Pelican Bay subdivision are among the 2,500 people who have been evacuated from their homes.

The fire is 75 to 80 percent contained in North Myrtle Beach, said William Bailey, public safety director.

More than 350 people are registered in three shelters in North Myrtle Beach, officials said.

No injuries have been reported, according to Horry County officials.

Helicopter water drops from the South Carolina Army National Guard have been used to control hot spots, Hawkins said.

Nick Gentile, 64, a Barefoot Resort resident, said he left his home around 2 a.m.

“They came around with a police car with a loudspeaker,” he said, still wearing his blue-plaid pajamas. “You always read about stuff like this, but you never know when you are going to be in it.”

Meanwhile, one man was ticketed Thursday in connection with a fire.

The man was ticketed for failure to notify the South Carolina Forestry Commission about an outdoor burn and letting the fire spread to another’s property, said Hawkins.

“Were they the cause of the fire? We don’t know that yet,” Hawkins said.

“There is further investigation needed. Yes that burn caused a fire, but it doesn’t mean it caused the (S.C.) 31 fire we are here to discuss today.”

The man’s name was not immediately available. Forestry Commission officials later said that the fire was a routine debris burn that was started over the weekend and was put out the same day. The commission said it rekindled on Wednesday.


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