S.C. fire destroys nearly 70 homes in Myrtle Beach area

Scott Vereen sprays water on his family's home Thursday near Conway, South Carolina.
Firefighters were working Friday to extinguish a raging wildfire that had scorched 20,000 acres near South Carolina’s popular tourist areas.

Cool night air had caused thick smoke from the blaze to dip, hampering visibility, said Todd Cartner, a Horry County Fire Rescue spokesman. The blaze had destroyed 69 houses and damaged 100 others, causing about 2,500 people to evacuate, the Horry County Emergency Operations Center said Thursday. South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford declared a state of emergency Thursday for the coastal county. “This has already proved to be a devastating event for Horry County, and it isn’t over,” Sanford said in a statement. The county is home to some of the state’s most popular tourist spots, including the Myrtle Beach area. Authorities began alerting people in the Barefoot Resort area early Thursday after the fire jumped a highway and began consuming some houses. Watch a copter drop water on flames in North Myrtle Beach ┬╗

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No fatalities or injuries have been reported, officials said. About 440 people were in two shelters at the House of Blues and at the North Myrtle Beach Aquatic and Fitness Center, the operations center said. Both the Barefoot Resort and the Pelican Bay subdivisions had been evacuated. In addition, three schools were evacuated because of heavy smoke.

Helicopters were conducting water drops over portions of the area, said North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley. Officials have not determined a cause for the fire, which began about midday Wednesday in Conway.