What is a Red Flag Fire Alert?
A Red Flag Fire Alert is a wildfire danger warning issued by the SC Forestry Commission. The Red Flag cautions that wildfire danger is increasing, and that outdoor burning could become difficult to control. A Red Flag Fire Alert does not prohibit outdoor burning as long as all other state and local regulations are followed. When a Red Flag is in effect, the Forestry Commission asks people to voluntarily postpone any outdoor burning. While the Red Flag itself does not prohibit burning, it may trigger certain county or local ordinances that do restrict outdoor fires. To find out about these ordinances, contact your local fire department. (Forestry Commission officers do not enforce local burning ordinances; that authority is reserved to city or county officers.)
A Forestry Commission Red Flag Fire Alert is sometimes confused with a National Weather Service Red Flag Warning. The NWS Warning is issued when their forecast includes any two of the following conditions: sustained wind speeds in excess of 20 mph; significant wind shifts; relative humidity of 25% or lower; and high lightning potential.
What is a Burning Ban?
A Burning Ban legally prohibits outdoor burning. Bans are emergency measures, declared only when outdoor burning is deemed significant threat to public safety.
There are two kinds of Burning Bans under SC State Law: a State Forester’s Burning Ban, declared by the director of the Forestry Commission, and a Governor’s Burning Ban, declared by the Governor upon recommendation of the State Forester.
The State Forester’s Burning Ban prohibits starting any fire in or adjacent to "woodlands, brush lands, grasslands, ditch banks, or hedgerows" (SC Code 48-35-50). This is generally interpreted to include all types of outdoor burning.
The Governor’s Burning Ban is less restrictive, making allowances for certain agricultural burning (SC Code 48-31-30) In announcing a Burning Ban, the issuing authority will specify the area of South Carolina to which the restrictions apply. Neither the State Forester’s Ban nor the Governor’s Ban applies with the corporate limits of any town or city (SC Code 48-35-30 and 48-31-30). Violation of either a State Forester’s Ban or a Governor’s Ban carries a fine of up to $100. Any burning to which a Ban applies also requires prior notification to the Forestry Commission, so ignorance of a declared Ban is not generally considered a viable legal defense
Outdoor Burning Notifications
SC State Law requires that you notify the Forestry Commission prior to burning outdoors. In most cases, the law applies to burning leaves, limbs and branches that you clean up from your yard. The notification law does not apply within town or city limits.
Forestry Commission Contact Numbers
Spartanburg County 1-800-517-9640
Greenville County 1-800-986-5299
Greer City 864-848-2169 Must obtain Permit, Land Clearing Only, Fee based
The law requires that you clear a firebreak around the burning site and have the right equipment available to keep the fire under control. You must also stay with the fire until it is completely safe. In addition to state laws regulating outdoor burning, there may be other local ordinances. Be sure to check on this before burning. If adjacent to woods, brush, or grassland, SC State Law requires you notify the Forestry Commission before burning construction debris, trade waste, or vegetative materials from land clearing or right-of-way maintenance. Also included is any outdoor burning conducted for training purposes. The state notification law does not apply within town or city limits, but certain city ordinances may regulate the burning. All burning of this type must comply with DHEC Regulation 61-62.2. You should make sure you understand the requirements prior to calling for notification. Forestry Commission dispatchers are not authorized to interpret this regulation.
SCFC Forest Law Handbook
Online viewable source also downloadable PDF available.