HORRY COUNTY, S.C. — When it comes to fighting wildfires, Horry County Fire Rescue’s wildfire team is leading the way in South Carolina. Horry County Fire Rescue crews are taking a different approach by using a backpack leaf blower. What is generally used for common lawn equipment is now helping to fight fires.
The HCFR wildfire team was the first in the state to introduce backpack leaf blowers nearly two years ago. Since then, crews said they’ve seen significant results when fighting brush fires.
HCFR Capt. Tim Rainbolt, said backpack blowers have been used to fight fires for many years, but the department first decided to use them locally after seeing how effective they were during the 2016 Pinnacle Mountain Fire in Greenville. That blaze started as a campfire and burned over 10,000 acres.
“They actually surprised us and worked better than we could ever imagine. Obviously, when we get into the deep bays with the organic fuel sources and what not, we can’t get down deep into that. We have to use other tactics, but for the majority of our ground surface fuels, it works great,” said Rainbolt.
Right now, the department has 6 backpack blowers and Rainbolt said they’re a great asset to the team. Not only is the cost fairly inexpensive, but there’s also many advantages this tool has over the more traditional ways to fight fires; they also save a ton of manpower and water.
“We use them exclusively pretty much now because you don’t have the limitations. With a 100 feet of hose line, you don’t have that type of limitation with the backpack blower," said Rainbolt.
South Carolina’s wildfire season usually occurs between late winter and early spring, but experts said wildfires can really happen at any time of the year across the state. The South Carolina Emergency management division reports in a typical year, crews respond to over 5,000 wildfires, which burn nearly 30,000 acres.
Rainbolt said as technology advances, the department is always searching for new, progressive ways to fight fires.
Horry County Fire Rescue is leading the state in many practices and Rainbolt said he hopes to serve as a model for other departments in the state.