I-20 Fire, Reopen, Car Smoke

Interstate 20, which runs near Aiken and North Augusta, was reopened early Wednesday morning. The highway was shut down Tuesday because of a large brush fire.

It is believed the cause of the Gateway Fire on Interstate 20 last week was due to equipment use.

Aiken County, like much of the CSRA and even the Southeast, has been experiencing record heat and extremely dry conditions. Add in the fact it's been windy around the county and that can only stir up a potential fire and make it spread much more quickly.

Certainly, it doesn't need to be said because it's obvious, but heed the warning regardless. Don't start a fire of any kind near your house and if you have to grill some hamburgers or a steak, don't leave the grill unattended. Don't toss cigarettes in the grass, don't burn leaves or debris, etc.

It's harder to accomplish the task of being careful when others are driving and they launch a cigarette from the window and arguably it was quick to blame that as the cause of what happened on I-20.

But there can be other causes. In this case, a chain dangling from a vehicle hitting the road causing sparks is what is believed to be the cause according to the South Carolina Forestry Commission's communications director, Doug Wood.

With temperatures of more than 100 degrees for four or five straight days and barely a cloud to provide relief, the sun pounding on extremely dry conditions easily causes the fire to spread.

The Forestry Commission has a current map of brush fires across the state and of the 32 fires this week, six of those have been either in or near Aiken County. Certainly, the whole state could use a good dose of rain, but that looks like it's not in the forecast any time soon.

We are fortunate that Graniteville, Eureka and Center fire crews as well as the Aiken County Sheriff's Office and the Forestry Commission kept the 220 acres near I-20 from getting larger.

It was a major inconvenience last Tuesday for drivers on I-20 as well as local drivers who got sucked up in the diversion after I-20 was shut down.

The end result however, was that's all it was – an inconvenience. There were no injuries and no homes destroyed. Even the residents who were evacuated were able to return to their homes a few hours later. That's a kudos to all the first responders including the South Carolina Highway Patrol, Aiken Department of Public Safety and all who helped out.

A local Boy Scout troop and others who donated cases of water to our first responders deserve our thanks as well. They provided much needed hydration to those who had to stand in the heat and direct traffic, fight the fires and keep those close to the fire safe.

But let's all be careful when dealing with anything that can ignite, and not make them work any more than they have to.