Local News

Brush Fires in 4 Counties; Homes Damaged in Hoke

Posted February 22, 2007 6:26 p.m. EST
Updated February 22, 2007 11:14 p.m. EST

— Brush fires whipped by high winds Thursday challenged firefighters in Raleigh and in Moore, Hoke and Johnston counties.

In Raleigh, where seven fires were reported between 3 and 3:30 p.m., winds carried flames from an townhouse complex  and ignited brush fires in adjoining unbuilt areas. Firefighters were called to five brush fires in the city while the larger fire burned.

In western Hoke County, a wind-driven brush fire leveled six homes, some of them abandoned, in an area on Loop Road known locally as Cameron Village. As many as two dozen other homes were in the path of the brush fire, but they sustained little or no damage.

Investigators had not determined the cause of the fire, which broke out about 2 p.m. Hot spots among the pine trees and blackened ground were being hosed down at sunset.

The fire burned approximately 160 acres and brought firefighters from Moore County to assist.

Hoke County authorities say the fire started with somebody burning backyard trash, and charges are expected. Investigators said they believed the resident was burning the debris Wednesday and let it smolder overnight. Thursday's winds caused the pile to flare up, they said.

"Somebody has got to be held responsible,” Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin said.

Ken Tyndall of the Pinehill Volunteer Fire Department. said some of the houses were abandoned.

"(We) don't really know how many of them were lived in," Tyndall said.

"The wind laying down helped a lot" in getting the fire under control, Tyndall said.

In addition, fire crews in Moore County fought four brush fires of their own. Those were brought under control about 5 p.m., and no injuries were reported.

In Johnston County, firefighters were sent to a brushfire at Camilla Road and Route 301 South just as crews were mopping a brush fire at I-40 and NC. 50.

The wave of brush fires came as high pressure ahead of a cold front brought wind gusts over 40 mph and the humidity plunged to 10 percent to 15 percent and temperatures rose. Raleigh-Durham International Airport recorded a record high of 74 degrees.

In addition, the year-to-date rainfall is below normal, increasing the fire danger, WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze said. Several counties in central North Carolina were put under a "red flag" fire warning through midnight Thursday because of the conditions.