MYRTLE BEACH, S.C., April 24 (UPI) -- The wildfire that has destroyed at least 70 houses on the South Carolina coast was 80 percent contained by late Friday, officials said.
Holly Welch of the South Carolina Forestry Commission said the weekend weather is expected to be favorable for firefighters, The Myrtle Beach Sun News reported.
"Hopefully they can get a good part of the fire completely mopped up and cold tonight, if all goes well," Welch said.
The fire has charred at least 31 square miles since flaring up Wednesday but owners in Myrtle Beach, the state's major coastal resort, say it has had little effect on tourists. The fire has burned mainly to the west of the Intracoastal Waterway, while most tourist businesses are on the narrow strip between the ocean and the waterway.
Investigators, who tracked the fire back to its point of origin, say a man burning brush and yard debris inadvertently started the blaze, The Raleigh News & Observer reported. They say a man in Conway burned yard debris Saturday and thought he had put the fire out, only to have it blaze up Wednesday.
The fire spread 10 miles northeast to North Myrtle Beach through the waxy vegetation of the area, spurred by gusty winds. By Friday, more than 20,000 acres had been burned, at least 70 homes gutted and another 100 damaged.
The man believed to have started the fire is one of those whose homes were destroyed, officials said.