Fire in North Myrtle Beach is 50-percent contained

Fueled by waxy undergrowth and unpredictable winds, wildfires across a large swath of inland Horry County destroyed dozens of homes and displaced thousands of residents Thursday, leaving a smoky scar across the sky, scorch marks across the land and fears of more destruction to come.

The fires could burn for days, officials said, but conditions for fighting them were expected to improve Thursday night. Those same conditions – low wind and high humidity – will make for a Friday filled with dense smoke and fog, officials warned.

By afternoon wind, which is expected to reach 15 mph and gust to 25 mph, also could be a concern, according to the National Weather Service.

The fire is 50 percent contained, according the Holly Welch, spokeswoman for the Forestry Division.

Heavy smoke just after midnight made driving difficult in areas around S.C. 90 near S.C. 31, where visibility in spots was about 50 yards.

Firefighters from S.C. Forestry Division and about 10 from Horry County Fire Rescue, concentrated their effort in an area roughly east of S.C. 22 and North of S.C. 31, Welch said.

Several small fires were reported and quickly addressed, she said, but there were no changes in the direction or size of the fire, she said.

Firefighters expect today to get help with water drops from helicopters and airplanes, Welch said.

The blaze began early Wednesday afternoon near S.C. 90 and International Drive but unleashed the brunt of its fury overnight, when it savaged about 70 homes in North Myrtle Beach's Barefoot Landing area near S.C. 31 and S.C. 22. On Thursday, steady winds fanned the flames back along Watertower Road and toward S.C. 90 to the northeast as firefighters moved throughout the day, trying to contain the blaze as best they could.

No injuries were reported Thursday, but preliminary counts showed 2,500 people evacuated, and hundreds spent the night at shelters around the area.

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