Local News

Wildfires Char Robeson County Landscape

Posted August 20, 2007 4:56 p.m. EDT
Updated August 20, 2007 6:58 p.m. EDT

— The sweltering heat and dry conditions across North Carolina combined to fan 84 wildfires over the weekend, authorities said.

Robeson County has been among the more active locations for the fires, with 27 over the weekend burning 1,084 acres. Wildfires have burned more than 2,600 acres across the county since the beginning of the month, according to the state Division of Forestry, and some of the fires continue to burn.

"It's been a constant go, go, go, and it's been like that for the past month and a half now," Fairmont Rural Fire Department Chief Charlie Hunt said. "I think we had seven calls in a period of five hours' time (on Sunday)."

Outdoor burning is banned in Robeson County, but firefighting crews found a man burning trash behind his home within sight of a fire along Interstate 95.

"Yeah, I was burning trash," resident Jerry McCormick said. "I was fixing my back porch."

Firefighters ordered McCormick to douse his back-yard fire with a hose.

"Once I saw that fire, I figured I'd put mine out, too. So, that's what it was. They came and told me to put the fire out," he said.

Outdoor burning is to blame for many of the 125 wildfires that have turned Robeson County's forests into ashy, sooty moonscapes over the past month, authorities said.

"When the wind gets to these barrels and spreads the embers out all over, that's more or less what we're dealing with throughout the whole county," Hunt said.

The biggest fire has been around the town of Orrum, off U.S. Highway 74 and N.C. Highway 130. The fire had burned between 250 and 300 acres by Monday evening, and a few mobile homes near U.S. 74 had to be evacuated, authorities said.

Meanwhile, a wildfire broke out at about 1:15 p.m. in the Hasty community in Scotland County at Hasty and Peabridge roads. It was partially contained by 5 p.m., according to authorities. Several homes were evacuated.

More than 200 acres burned in Johnston County, and crews were working Monday to cool down hot spots. Authorities said lightning might have sparked the fire.