A large plume of dark yellow smoke billowed from woods south of the Broad River Bridge on Wednesday as firefighters battled a large brush fire that closed lanes of S.C. 170 for hours.
The blaze was contained by Wednesday evening, according to fire officials.
Firefighters from the Bluffton Township Fire Department and officials from the S.C. Forestry Commission were called to the fire at about 3 p.m. as flames shot up the trunks of trees within sight of passing motorists and clouds of smoke reduced visibility on the busy highway.
To prevent the spread of the fire, emergency crews briefly shut down all lanes of S.C. 170 at about 3:30 p.m. and stationed a fire truck in the middle of the road, Bluffton department spokesman Capt. Randy Hunter said.
"The thing we were most concerned about was making sure the fire didn't jump the highway," Hunter said. "It jumped once earlier, but we were able to contain it. Once a fire like that gets to be this size, you really have to let the state forestry commission come in, dig a fire break and wait for the fire burn itself out."
Traffic slowed to a crawl as authorities allowed only one alternating lane of traffic through the area.
By 6 p.m., Hunter said all lanes of the highway had re-opened and the fire was contained.
"There will still be some reduced visibility near the fire scene throughout the night, and people should be careful driving through that area," Hunter said. "We'll have crews keeping an eye on it throughout the night and reevaluate things in the morning."
The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Bluffton Township Fire Marshal's Office, authorities said.
No injuries were reported, and there are no buildings near the site of the fire.
With hot, dry and windy conditions prevalent through Beaufort County, Hunter urged residents to forgo outdoor burning to prevent similar fires.
"We've had no rain and it's getting hot, so we really need people, if possible, to hold off on burning," Hunter said.