PICKENS COUNTY – Ping pong balls – dropped from a helicopter – will be part of a burnout operation Thursday as crews attempt to contain a wildfire on Pinnacle Mountain.
The Pinnacle Mountain Fire is now 35 percent contained and is about 3,638 acres.
The burnout is intended to eliminate fuel – leaves, branches and other debris – that can help a wildfire spread. When crews set the burnout fire intentionally, more smoke will be created in Pickens County. As a result, people living in 86 homes near the fire scene have been asked to evacuate for 72 hours.
A helicopter will drop ping pong balls that contain a chemical that quickly ignites after hitting the ground. It’s considered the fastest way to start a burnout.
This burnout will encompass both sides of Table Rock and extend north to the Table Rock Reservoir, south to the Pinnacle Lake area, and east to the Table Rock State Park boundary near High Low Gap.
Firefighters are concerned about controlling the east side of the fire with strong winds expected to arrive in the area of the fire this weekend.
Drivers are urged to avoid SC Highway 11 during the operation. People who suffer from respiratory conditions are asked to stay indoors. The Pickens County School District says schools will stop outdoor activities – such as recess – when the air quality index as listed by the EPA rises into the “Unhealthy” range.
As of Thursday morning, the district reports the air was listed as “moderate” in the area closest to the fire.
An area north of Highway 11 that is close to the burnout operation, from Back Park Road to South Saluda Road and north to Table Rock Reservoir, is undergoing an evacuation.
The evacuation will require nearly 100 people to leave their homes.