Local News

Wildfires mostly contained, but winds pose threat

Posted February 21, 2011 12:45 p.m. EST
Updated February 21, 2011 6:26 p.m. EST

— The potential for wildfires to flare up across the state continued Monday because of dry conditions, warm temperatures and gusty winds, officials said.

The North Carolina Division of Forest Resources didn't ban outdoor burning, but state officials strongly encouraged people not to burn anything outside through late Monday.

"Anything that starts to develop today will be fanned very quickly and could easily become out of control because of our winds," WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said.

The largest of nearly 300 wildfires sparked in eastern North Carolina over the weekend was fully contained by Monday afternoon as firefighters worked around the clock to bring it under control.

The fire has burned more than 2,000 acres in Warren County. Flames took out a barn, melted a fence and even swept through a cemetery, but no homes were lost and no one was injured, Warren County Emergency Services Director Doug Young said.

Lingering smoke became the primary concern for area residents on Monday. South Warren Elementary School was closed Monday because of smoky condition, and other schools opened two hours late.

Dennis Hargrove stayed home from work Monday and kept his brother-in-law close by just in case they got the call to pack up and evacuate.

"I wouldn't want to be stuck at work and then my house goes up in flames," Hargrove said.

Crews from the Division of Forest Resources carved breaks in the woods and fields on Sunday to try to contain the fire and lit controlled fires to burn off any dried grass and sticks.

Emergency officials had a possible shelter on standby and deputies ready to alert residents on Monday, but they didn't have to order any evacuations.

"I commend the fire stations and firemen for the job that they've done. They've done an excellent job protecting our houses," Hargrove said.

Authorities said they believe the fire started Saturday afternoon when a car being towed along Park Town Road threw off a spark. At one point, the fire stretched for more than 5 miles along U.S. Highway 401.

Wildfires plague state

State forestry officials said 95 fires totaling 401 acres were contained Monday, while 22 more fires continued to spread after burning a combined 831 acres.

A wildfire was raging near the Cumberland-Bladen county line on Monday afternoon. The fire had burned through about 600 acres of woods along Tabor Church Road, near N.C. Highway 53, officials said.

A brush fire in Johnston County was quickly doused after charring one acre. Firefighters used a plow to create fire lines and stop the flames from spreading.

State forestry officials were helping battle fire off N.C. Highway 242 in Roseboro on Monday afternoon. The fire has already burned about five acres.

In western North Carolina, a fire in Jude's Gap near Chimney Rock that burned for more than a week was contained by Sunday night. The fire burned 1,477 acres, officials said.

A 200-acre fire 7 miles west of Rowland in Robeson County and a 125-acre fire near the Kipling community in Harnett County also were contained by late Sunday, state forestry officials said.

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