Selected South Carolina prescribed burning laws

Note: [Bracketed comments in bold after statutes are provided by the website author and are not official government statements]

Arson and Related Crimes (Additional statutes in state Forest Law Handbook )
16-11-180. (Allowing fire to spread to lands or property of another.)

South Carolina Forest Fire Protection Act
Statutes:
48-33-10. (Short Title.)
48-33-20. ("Forest Land" defined.)
48-33-30. ("Forest Fire" defined.)
48-33-40. (State Commission of Forestry shall direct forest fire protection work.)
48-33-80. (Access to property.)
48-33-90. (Title to property acquired shall vest in State Commission of Forestry.)

South Carolina Prescribed Fire Act
Statutes:
48-34-20. (Definitions.)
48-34-30. (Forestry Commission responsibility.)
48-34-40. (Requirements for prescribed fire qualified under this chapter.)
48-34-50. (Liability protection unless negligence proven.)
48-34-60. (Other prescribed fires not prohibited.)

Notification and Precautions Law
Statutes:
48-35-10. (Starting fire in woodlands, grasslands, and other places shall be unlawful unless certain precautions are taken.)
48-35-60. (Penalties.)

Forest Management Protection Act
Statute 50-2-50. (Forestry operation as nuisance; established date of operation; local ordinance making forestry operation nuisance null and void.)

Statute 16-11-180. (Allowing fire to spread to lands or property of another.)
Any person who carelessly or negligently sets fire to or burns any grass, brush, leaves, or other combustible matter on any lands so as to cause or allow fire to spread or to be transmitted to the lands or property of another, or to burn or injure the lands or property of another, or who causes the burning to be done or who aids or assists in the burning, is guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction must be imprisoned for not less than five days nor more than thirty days or be fined not less than twenty-five dollars nor more than two hundred dollars.
For a second or subsequent offense the sentence must be imprisonment for not less than thirty days nor more than one year, or a fine of not less than one hundred dollars nor more than five hundred dollars, or both, in the discretion of the court.
LAW ENFORCEMENT NOTE: This statute may be charged in addition to charges under the Precautions Law, 48-35-10.
Allowing Fire to Spread may be charged for escaped fires that occur inside corporate limits of a town or city.

[Since this statute is under criminal law, common law does not protect employees.  Fire escape can result in misdemeanor charges for the burn manager and anyone who assisted in the burn.]

Statute 48-33-10. (Short Title.)
This chapter shall be cited as the "South Carolina Forest Fire Protection Act."

Statute 48-33-20. ("Forest Land" defined.)
For the purposes of this chapter all lands shall be construed as "forest land" which have enough forest growth, standing or down, or have sufficient inflammable debris or, outside of corporate limits, to constitute, in the judgment of the State Commission of Forestry, a fire menace to itself or adjoining lands.

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Statute 48-33-30. ("Forest Fire" defined.)
The term "forest fire" as used in this chapter, means any fire burning uncontrolled on any land covered wholly or in part by timber, brush, grass or other inflammable vegetation.

Statute 48-33-40. (State Commission of Forestry shall direct forest fire protection work.)
All forest fire protection work shall be under the direction and supervision of the State Commission of Forestry, through the State Forester, subject to the provisions of this chapter and the laws of the State enacted relative to forestry and forest fire prevention and suppression.

Statute 48-33-80. (Access to property.)
The State Commission of Forestry, any of its authorized agents and any member of a county forestry board may, at any or all times, go upon any land for the purpose of preventing or controlling forest fires, as defined herein, without making themselves liable for trespassing.

Statute 48-33-90. (Title to property acquired shall vest in State Commission of Forestry.)
The title to all property acquired incident to carrying out the provisions of this chapter shall be vested in the State Commission of Forestry.

Statute 48-34-20. (Definitions.)
As used in this chapter:
      1. `Prescribed fire' means a controlled fire applied to forest, brush, or grassland vegetative fuels under
          specified environmental conditions and precautions which cause the fire to be confined to a
          predetermined area and allow accomplishment of the planned land management objectives. It also is
          known as `controlled burn'.
      2. `Certified prescribed fire manager' means an individual who successfully completes a certification
          program approved by the State Commission of Forestry.
      3. `Prescribed fire plan' means a written prescription for starting and controlling a prescribed fire.

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Statute 48-34-30. (Forestry Commission responsibility.)
The State Commission of Forestry shall promulgate regulations for the use of prescribed fire and for the certification of prescribed fire managers.

Statute 48-34-40. (Requirements for prescribed fire qualified under this chapter.)
Prescribed fires conducted pursuant to this chapter:
      1. must have a prescribed fire plan prepared before authorization to burn is given by the State
          Commission of Forestry, and the plan must be on site and followed during the burn;
      2. must have at least one certified prescribed fire manager present and supervising the burn from ignition
          until it is declared safe according to certification guidelines;
      3. are considered in the public interest and do not constitute a public nuisance when conducted pursuant
          to state air pollution statutes, smoke management guidelines, and regulations applicable to the use of
          prescribed fire;
      4. are considered a property right of the property owner.
[Standards are based on state smoke and fire guidelines.]

Statute 48-34-50. (Liability protection unless negligence proven.)
No property owner or lessee or his agent or employee conducting a prescribed fire pursuant to this chapter is liable for damage, injury, or loss caused by fire, resulting smoke, or other consequences of the prescribed fire unless negligence is proven.
[Protection from fire and smoke damage if 48-34-40 requirements are met]

Statute 48-34-60. (Other prescribed fires not prohibited.)
Notwithstanding the requirements of this chapter, a person may conduct a prescribed fire without a certified prescribed fire manager present.

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Statute 48-35-10. (Starting fire in woodlands, grasslands, and other places shall be unlawful unless certain precautions are taken.)
It shall be unlawful for any owner or lessee of land or any employee of such owner or lessee or other person to start, or cause to be started, a fire in any woodlands, brushlands, grasslands, ditchbanks, or hedgerows or in any debris, leaves or other flammable material adjacent thereto, except under the following conditions:
    (a) Proper notification shall be given to the State Forester, or his duly authorized representative or other
          persons designated by the State Forester. The notice shall contain all information required by the
          State Forester or his representative.
    (b) Such persons shall have cleared around the area to be burned and have immediately available
          sufficient equipment and personnel to adequately secure the fire and prevent its spread.
    (c) The person starting the burning shall supervise carefully the fire started and have it under control prior
          to leaving the area.
[A prescribed fire cannot be set unless the Commission is first notified, firelanes established, and a burn manager and adequate personnel and equipment are present.]

Statute 48-35-60. (Penalties.)
Any person violating the provisions of this chapter shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be fined not less than ten dollars nor more than one hundred dollars or imprisoned for not less than ten days nor more than thirty days. For any second or subsequent offense, a fine of not less than twenty-five dollars nor more than three hundred dollars or imprisonment for not more than six months may be imposed in the discretion of the court. "Subsequent offense," as used in this section, shall mean an offense committed within ten years of a previous offense.
LAW ENFORCEMENT NOTE: 48-35-10 is the appropriate charge when an escaped fire requires suppression action even if it does not encroach on adjacent property. It may also be an appropriate additional charge in cases of Allowing Fire to Spread (16-11-180).
[Since keeping a fire under control is one of the Chapter’s requirements under Section 48-35-10, an uncontrolled fire will result in a misdemeanor charge.  Note that Section 48-35-60 uses the term “escaped” to described an uncontrolled onsite fire.]

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Statute 50-2-50. (Forestry operation as nuisance; established date of operation; local ordinance making forestry operation nuisance null and void.)
(A) No established forestry operation is or may become a nuisance, private or public, if the forestry operation adheres to best management practices as promulgated by the South Carolina Forestry Commission. This section does not apply whenever a nuisance results from the negligent, improper, or illegal operation of a forestry operation.
(B) For the purposes of this chapter, the established date of operation is the date on which the forestry operation commenced operation. If the operation is expanded subsequently or new technology adopted, the established date of operation for each change is not a separately and independently established date of operation and the commencement of the expanded operation does not divest the forestry operation of a previously established date of operation.
(C) An ordinance of a county or municipality that makes a forestry operation following best management practices as promulgated by the South Carolina Forestry Commission a nuisance or providing for abatement as a nuisance in derogation of this chapter is null and void. The provisions of this section do not apply whenever a nuisance results from the negligent, illegal, or improper operation of a forestry operation.
LAW ENFORCEMENT NOTE: This law prevents local ordinances from prohibiting legitimate forestry operations, ie burning, harvesting, etc.
[A Right to Burn statement]

Website was last updated on 17 August 2006 by D. Marshall, UGA

 

 

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