Magnolia, N.C. — A brush fire in Duplin County was contained Wednesday, but not before it had scorched about 225 acres and destroyed two homes.
Flames spread quickly Tuesday night through the woods near Magnolia, officials said. Two families had just minutes to grab a few belongings and get out.
"We made it out just in time," said Latarsha Wilson.
What used to be the home of Wilson's parents is now a pile of bricks and ashes. Cars and trucks nearby are charred shells. The brush fire also gutted her grandmother's house next door.
"We still have pictures that we had, but other than that, by the smoke, it's completely gone too," said Wilson.
Other family members from across the state rushed to help.
"Oh God, it's awful. I just couldn't believe it," said Benita Wilson-Harris.
Investigators said they were not sure Wednesday what caused the brush fire. Firefighters planned to watch for hot spots into Thursday morning. The Red Cross is helping the families who lost their homes.
Another potentially damaging brush fire is out in Wake County. Two fire departments battled the flames Tuesday as they spread through a heavily wooded area near Highway 55. No structures were damaged by the fire. The cause has not been determined.
Wildfires are on the rise in North Carolina. For the last 10 years, the state has averaged more than 4,900 fires a year, consuming more than 20,000 acres.
As of Wednesday, the state has seen nearly 5,500 fires this year, burning 30,763 acres. The last time that many acres burned was 1985, when 5,600 fires scorched 113,000 acres.
Fire investigators have determined the cause of more than two-thirds of the summer's wildfires in Robeson County. Of the 150 fires, 21 started from residents burning debris like leaves and trees. Seventeen fires were intentionally set, two by juveniles. Lightning sparked three, including a fire that closed parts of U.S. 74.