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Wildfire threat exacerbated by heat, high winds

Posted February 20, 2011
Updated February 21, 2011

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— The largest of nearly 300 wildfires sparked in eastern North Carolina on Saturday kept burning Sunday, and state forest service officials warned that the potential for fast-moving flames will stay until Tuesday.

About 80 firefighters continued to battle the flames in Warren County, as the wild fire that has scorched more than 1,600 acres of mostly farm land and forest burned steadily Sunday.

Crews said they have the fire 80 percent contained and did not expect any home evacuations, but noted that the fire's spread can be unpredictable.

At one point, the flames jumped the fire-break and spread rapidly into a wooded are off Limer Town Road.

WRAL Weather team WRAL WeatherCenter Forecast

"Sometimes with the wind blowing and it's coming 6 to 8-foot tall, it goes right over the fire-break," said Fire Chief Joey Andrews.

One house and two outbuildings have been damaged in the blaze, authorities said.  Johnston County brush fire Sky 5 flies over NC wildfires

Crews from the North Carolina Forest Service carved lines in the earth to try to contain the fire and lit backfires to kill any dried fuel from the ground. 

Families were allowed to return to more than six dozen homes around Afton that were evacuated overnight Saturday. Shocco Springs, Park Town and Limer Town roads remained closed.

Warren County wildfire Warren County fire spans 1,600 acres

Joe Champion, who lives in the Afton area, said he could see the fire from his yard.

"You can see the glow in the back of the woods where it is burning," he said.

He said he was nervous about the fire creeping closer to his house.

"I got my water hose hooked up," Champion said. "There is nothing you can do, this is mother nature."

About a dozen forest service workers assisted the Warrenton fire department, Andrews said. Crews hoped to have the fire contained by late Sunday.

"It's been real difficult," Andrews said. "It ain't a good feeling when you get fire that's 10, 12 feet above your head in the trees. It can be very scary."

Authorities believe the fire started early Saturday afternoon when a car being towed along Park Town Road threw off a spark. At one point, it stretched for more than five miles along U.S. Highway 401.

Wake County

Homeowners in the Wakefield Plantation subdivision in north Raleigh were still reeling Sunday from brush fires that got dangerously close to homes in the area. Fire crews were able to keep the flames at bay, and only three homes reported minor exterior damage.

Start of fire in Wakefield Wakefield residents reeling from wildfire

Angelo Belardo was at the mall with his family when he got a call from his neighbor that his backyard was on fire.

"We just dropped everything and ran," Belardo said. "We figured everything was getting wiped out. He said it was like a forest fire."

Firefighters said a discarded cigarette from a car was likely the cause of the blaze, which singed 25 acres in the golf course community.

"It was very quick," Belardo said. "They [saw] it coming up the hill and it just rolled down ... rolled down and engulfed everything."

Fires kindled across North Carolina

Authorities said that a few fires in other counties reignited or started up Sunday.

A fire in Jude's Gap near Chimney Rock that was burning for more than a week was contained as of Sunday night. The fire burned 1,474 acres.

Multiple grass fires were reported along Interstate 40 and U.S. Highway 1 in the Raleigh and Cary areas, dispatchers said.

A 200-acre fire seven miles west of Rowland in Robeson County and a 125-acre fire near the Kipling community in Harnett County still burned but had been contained, forest service officials said. There was also a small fire near Rowland.

Fire Parts of NC still ablaze, but wildfires mostly contained

In Johnston County, crews battled three minor brush fires Sunday afternoon, putting one out along Aquilla Road, and dousing flames that rekindled along Interstate 95. That fire continued to burn, but crews had it under control, preventing it from spreading, authorities said.

Firefighters kept an eye on a 500-acre fire in Pender County that forced the evacuation of 25 homes in the Hoover Road area Saturday.

On Saturday, high winds and dry air stirred up 288 fires that burned nearly 3,000 acres across North Carolina.

Instead of burning debris outdoors, people should compost their brush piles or leave them until the state receives a soaking rainfall, forest service officials said.

Burn bans were in effect in Pender and Brunswick counties.


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  • 6079 SMITH W Feb 21, 2011

    The wind blows in spring, and it gets dry when it doesn't rain much, either. Thank God I read these comments, I never would have known otherwise this combo of conditions was caused by a democratic governor in our fine state. I must admit that I thought these fires were caused by folks being careless with fire in dry, windy conditions. Whooda Thunkit? ;)

  • I Change This Name Daily Feb 21, 2011

    seems like the most hot air blowing here is from:


  • Bring on the 4 Dollar Gas Feb 21, 2011

    " agree with MrsMom! Where is the burn ban!! "

    Government at its finest. Led by the worst Governor in the history of our country, Veto Bev!

  • Bring on the 4 Dollar Gas Feb 21, 2011

    "...people who are burning brush that account for most of the fires..." is not correct."

    great news, i'm headed out to burn a huge pile of trash now.

  • Bring on the 4 Dollar Gas Feb 21, 2011

    seankelly, does your momma know you're still here? Watch and see if we don't smoke right past 08-09. However, it's not a one year total that is the problem, it's the hot air blowing from your pie hole and the years of cumulative drought that will put 2011 in the record books, end your toilet flushing and cause yet more new comers to stay as far away as possible.

  • Bring on the 4 Dollar Gas Feb 21, 2011

    Why is it always so incredibly windy here? Is it because the weekend weather girl, Deaner, couldn't stop rambling enough to actually finish the forecast before her time expired? Is it because the morning goofy gal doesn't know how to work the equipment? I'd say both are a problem, have been for some time, and both contribute to the constantly windy atmosphere in the viewing area.

  • chargerschic19 Feb 21, 2011


    Just a heads up...it is a miracle that the fire was confined to the golf course. Anyone who lives in Wakefield or has been through it knows just how lucky we are and just how unbelievable it is that only three homes received minor damage.
    And also that a some careless fool flicked a ciggy butt out the window and burned 25 acres of a golf course, but it just as easily could have been 25 acres of homes.

    I get that people have lost homes and so much more, but we should also be aware of what happened because of a cigarette in hopes that people may think twice before tossing it out the window.

  • seankelly15 Feb 21, 2011

    YouCantGetRidOfMe - "We will set records for THE worst drought in our history this year,..."

    As usual, you are wrong. We are not even close to drought that we had in 2008-2009.

  • seankelly15 Feb 21, 2011

    hfweather - Actually, "...people who are burning brush that account for most of the fires..." is not correct. So far they have identified a spark from a car being towed and they suspect a cigarette. And, the poor fellow who died fighting the fire on his property had a cardiac condition that may have led to his collapse.

  • seankelly15 Feb 21, 2011

    oceancandle - "People have been hurt, people have lost everything..."

    Did you read the story? Did you comprehend it? Where did you get this particular factoid?