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Heat-Seeking Chopper Plies Skies Over Stump Dump

State forestry officials used a helicopter with heat-sensing equipment to help firefighters locate the hottest areas of the stubborn underground fire.

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CLAYTON, N.C. — The state Friday joined the long effort to stamp out the stump dump fire in Johnston County, sending a helicopter with thermal-imaging equipment that will help ground crews get water onto the hottest spots in the underground fire.

The firefighting strategy is to use an irrigation system fed from a nearby creek to soak the fire’s power centers, hopefully bringing an end to the fire and to the smoke that has filled the sky over the dump since Feb. 26. They hope to have the system in place on Saturday.

Crews have been pouring water onto the surface for almost two weeks, but the logs, stumps and yard waste in the dump off Loop Road near Clayton is as much as 70 feet deep, and the deluge has had little effect. Neither did over an inch of rain that fell a few days after the fire broke out.

The helicopter from the Division of Forest Resources has gear that senses heat and shows where the fire is burning hottest. Johnston County Emergency Management officials think that hitting those spots is the way to stop the fire.

Previously, crews have dug deep fire lines to keep the fire from spreading and have pumped a foam-water mixture onto it.

At times, the fire drove some neighbors from their homes and had made breathing difficult. One evening, it could be smelled in Raleigh and caused some fire alarms to go of at N.C. State University. More recently, winds have shifted and have taken smoke away from nearby homes.


Ken Smith, Reporter
Richard Adkins, Photographer
Ron Gallagher, Web Editor

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