Local News

Brush Fire Blazes Through Chatham County

Posted May 31, 1999

— A huge brush fire raced acrossChatham CountyTuesday. Conditions have been so dry, firefighters across the state say they are bracing for a round of wildfires.

"I mean it was a sick feeling," says Steve Kirman, who found his 26-acre Chatham County spread in flames after he returned home from his mail route.

There was no hope in saving Kirman's barn, as firefighters raced to protect his historic farmhouse.

"That house was built in 1850, and that would have killed me," Kirman said.

Acres of dry brush made for perfect kindling. Anxious neighbors rushed to protect their own homes.

"We thought this house was threatened," says neighbor Steve Fitzgerald. "There was fire around the propane tanks, and we got some hoses from the house and watered it down until the fire department got here."

Firefighters working with hoses were no match for the blaze. A forestry worker cut a fire break around the property in hopes of containing the damage.

"We've had an unusual amount of brush and woods fire so it is tough on us," says Chief Mark Riggsbee with the Chatham County Fire Department. "Really, the only way to contain it in the woods area is to get the forestry service in here with their plow."

Rescuers say week after week of dry weather made a fire like this inevitable. They are all too aware that the summer is just beginning.

Firefighters said they did catch one break Tuesday -- there was not much wind. They said the blaze could have been a lot worse with higher winds.

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