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Pine straw a factor in fire's rapid growth

Posted March 25, 2010

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— Pine straw and dry grass were likely contributing factors in a blaze that spread through a north Raleigh neighborhood this week, the city's fire marshal said Thursday.

Fire Marshal Rusty Styons said his office is conducting a thorough investigation and will present its findings to the city's fire chief and command staff for review.

"Our investigation will include an assessment of flammable ground cover’s contribution to this incident," he said. "We are highly motivated to determining how best to reduce the likelihood of a reoccurrence of this type of incident."

Flames tore through seven homes in the 200 block of Armadale Lane, in the Highland Creek subdivision, Tuesday evening, displacing 11 people, authorities said.

A preliminary investigation found that the fire likely started in the grass between two houses. Witnesses said the houses caught fire like matchboxes as flames spread from one to the other.

Gusty winds and the close proximity of the homes were also factors in the fire's rapid spread, authorities said.

A pair of fires under similar situations three years ago led to changes in the building codes at the city and state levels.

In February 2007, flames damaged or destroyed 38 townhouses at the Pine Knolls Townes townhouse complex off Capital Boulevard in Raleigh.

Pine straw next to the homes contributed to the rapid spread of the fire, authorities said, and vinyl siding and soffit material allowed flames to get into attics and on the roofs.

Six months later, a fire destroyed two homes in the Village at Rolesville subdivision in Rolesville.

The houses were so close together that the heat melted siding on other homes nearby. That led the town to consider changes to its building codes.

The 2007 fires were also a factor in the Town of Knightdale to consider siding and mulch questions when it revisited building codes in 2008.

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  • ImBored Mar 26, 2010

    That's why I don't live in a cookie cutter neighborhood!

  • 6079 SMITH W Mar 26, 2010

    Amen,Rev.....It does seem like a bad idea to have pine straw piled up around houses that are 18 FEET away from each other. Who knows, if they decide to stop using one of nature's most flammable landscaping materials, then maybe it is within the realm of possibility that we might get smart on the policy of keeping the lawn emerald-green during periods of drought/low lake levels.....

  • chfdcpt Mar 26, 2010

    The contractors will maximize profits by placing as many homes in the same plot of dirt as they can. I believe that these homes were not even 10 feet apart? Radiated heat will spread to the next house at that distance, and that is what caused the fire to spread from structure to structure.

    Of course, I am sure that they were in compliance with the building code.

  • Adelinthe Mar 25, 2010

    Why even sell the stuff here anymore then? Since two mass fires haven't taught people anything about not using it close to their homes.

    Course out here in Harnett County where the winds been blowing lately, even the grass is brown and dry and could catch like tinder.

    God bless.

    RB

  • NoFreakinWay Mar 25, 2010

    many words,
    you can't blame pinestraw, how did it start? that's who is at fault, not mother nature.
    jail term for all!

  • mtnmama Mar 25, 2010

    2 words---vinyl siding.