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Wind, Dry Weather Spark Fires Across State; Power Outages Reported

Posted February 10, 2008

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— Numerous brush and structure fires broke out across the region Sunday afternoon as the National Weather Service issued a red-flag warning, indicating that dry weather and wind could create ideal conditions for fires.

A brush fire in Granville County forced the closure of Interstate 85 North between exits 206 and 208, officials confirmed. Crews from four fire departments and forestry officials were battling the blaze, which started near Two Pond Lane around noon.

Crews from multiple fire departments tackled a large woods fire around the 3700 block of Polenta Road, near Matthews Road in Clayton. A WRAL photographer at the scene could see smoke from miles away.

Seven fire departments and about 60 firefighters are working to put out the estimated 50 acres that are on fire. Two barns were destroyed and at one time, 20 homes were threatened. Willow Spring Free Will Baptist was also evacuated at about 12:45 p.m. as the fire moved closer to the structure.

Firefighters are also battling a 50 acre woods fire in Onslow County at 122 Mary Edwards Rd.

In Harnett County, multiple woods fires are burning in Cameron, official said.

In Kittrell, north of Louisburg at the intersection of W. Dyking Road and Sims Bridge Road, firefighters are battling a woods fire. People are being warned to stay away from the area and some people are being evacuated from their homes.

Wood fires were also reported Sunday afternoon in Hollister, Halifax County; Edwards and Riddle roads in Lee County and Highway 1 north of Franklinton, before the Vance County line.

Four fire and forestry crews also responded to a brush fire early Sunday near Low River and Cleatus Hall roads, between Sanford and Moncure.

Throughout the day, wood fires have been reported in nearly every county in the state, according to Shardul Ravel with the North Carolina Forestry Service.

Ravel said 84 fires, spanning some 556 acres, have been contained across the state. Roughly 73 fires, spanning 1630 acres, are uncontained as of 5:15 p.m. Sunday.

High winds blowing trees into power lines has left some 12,600 customers without power in the northern region of the state – Raleigh to the Virginia state line – according to Progress Energy. Wake Electric said they are reporting some 1,115 power outages, mostly in Franklinton, Oxford, Kittrell and Royal. Duke Energy reported at 6:15 p.m. , 1,108 power outages in Durham, 893 in Henderson and 1,456 in Orange County.

The NWS issued red-flag warnings for all 100 counties in North Carolina from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Sustained west winds of 25 mph were predicted, with gusts of up to 40 mph.

"A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures will create explosive fire growth potential," the red-flag warning read.

The state Division of Forest Resources on Friday warned people to avoid debris burning this weekend due to the potential of fire. Careless burning of debris accounts for more than 40 percent of the wildfires in North Carolina, more than any other cause, state officials said.

Stay with WRAL.com for continuing coverage of this developing story.

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