Roy Holcombe, Assistant Chief at Holly Springs Fire Station has spent a little over a week laying out bottled water and loading up tables with snacks and chips at his fire station.
Someone stops in at least once a day to ferry the supplies to the base camp at the Table Rock Wesleyan Camp and Retreat Center, where over 200 firefighters are currently based in an effort to control the blaze on Pinnacle Mountain.
According to Holcombe, donations keep coming in – with the firefighters barely being able to finish one lot before the next comes in.
One of the camp’s board members, Joe Tollison, has fully loaded his pickup with toiletries and snacks that are bound for the base camp – even needing to resort to using his passenger seat and back seat for extra space.
According to the South Carolina Forestry Commission public information officer, Holly Welch, accelerating and shifting winds are going to be the most challenging problem to be faced at the weekend.
Winds have been tracked at between 4 and 7 mph coming from the south and it is expected that winds of about 15 mph and reaching about 30 mph from a north/ north-westerly direction will start up on Saturday.
This change could be what puts the homes closest to the fire at the highest risk so far.
East Pickens Baptist Church, situated at 2244 Gentry Memorial Highway will offer shelter until Sunday at noon at the least.
Should residents feel they need to be evacuated and that they need assistance, they should call 864-898-2437. For updates on the fire and whether evacuations are necessary or not, they should call 864-898-5373.
The blaze has been surrounded by a fire line of swaths of ground that have been bulldozed clean. The Forestry Commission issued a statement on Friday night to say that around 90 percent of the area contained by the fire breaks had burnt out already.
Forestry Commission firefighters were supported by additional crews that had, until recently been fighting fires in North Carolina, were deployed on Friday to the woods in order to strengthen the fire lines by tamping hot spots down and by cutting out brush.
The work is hard and exhausting and has to be done with chainsaws and hand tools.
Welch stated that the progress being made was good.
He also said that firefighters were, in some cases, touching area with bare hands in order to ensure that they were cool.
The warm weather on Friday did not help matters either because the firefighters were forced to work their ways up steep terrain and through sections that had been burned intentionally earlier on.
According to Welch, it is believed that a lower temperature will not bring much relief as it is likely to lower humidity.
She also mentioned that the firefighters had recently learned that there had been a building that burnt out during the first stages of the fire – the building was old and had originally constructed by the now disbanded Civilian Conservation Corp. Now called the Halfway Shelter, it was located close to Panther Gap. It is thought to have been gutted around about a week or so ago but the firefighters had only seen this on Thursday.
Barry Frost, the Fire Chief for Duncan stated that the firefighters pride themselves in that being the only building lost.
According to him, the fire has not been moving very fast and is very low-burning – with flames not higher than the knee. Frost describes it as similar to a leaf fire on a very large scale.
He, with a team of firefighters, was on call on Friday at Aunt Sue’s Country Corner, tasked with protecting homes should the fire jump the fire lines.
Karen Curtis, a resident with a home situated around a mile to the east of the line, dropped in to see what the latest fire maps looked like. She stated that she was not “freaking out” but rather that she wanted to stay abreast of the situation.
Curtis originally moved with her now late husband there from the coast of South Carolina in 2012.
She was cited as saying that she would prefer to experience a hurricane rather than experience a fire.
She said that her biggest worry was that the fire might jump the fire line due to the changing winds.
On Thursday, a controlled burn of over a 1000 acres met the edges of the wildfire so that the total area covered was now 5095 acres, according to Welsh. Friday saw nine days of effort on the part of the firefighters to get the blaze, recorded as the largest forest fire on record in Upstate, under control.
Emergency Management for Pickens County issued a statement on Friday evening to say that the fire is about 35 percent contained.
Welsh stated that the fire line would be tested this weekend and that the firefighters did expect it to hold.
Students from the Six Mile Elementary School added some home-made cards to thank firefighters for they efforts to the donations of water and snacks and these were proudly on display at the camp.
Firefighters have cited that there is one card that ranks amongst their favorites – the picture depicts the fire and the message was for the firefighters to stay brave and not to stop trying.