Local News

Wildfire rages on nearly 1,000 acres in Cumberland County

Posted February 21, 2011 5:34 p.m. EST
Updated February 22, 2011 8:00 a.m. EST

— A wildfire raged in Cumberland County near the Bladen County line Monday, burning about 1,000 acres of woods along Tabor Church Road, near N.C. Highway 53, authorities said.

Dozens of firefighters were at the scene Monday night trying to get the blaze under control. The North Carolina Forest Service said the fire was 25-30 percent contained as of 10:30 p.m.

The fire was sparked Monday afternoon and quickly spread to 600 acres of woodland in the Cedar Creek area. It engulfed about 1,000 acres within hours.

A forest service spokesman said the fire was deep in the woods and crews were having difficulty getting to it.

Authorities said that two planes dropped fire retardant on the fire and a surveillance aircraft flew overhead to monitor the spread of flames.

Five bulldozers were also on site digging fire breaks, but soft ground made them hard to maneuver, authorities said.

Crews backed off their efforts dramatically after nightfall, but said they would be back to work Tuesday morning.

Fast-moving flames crept close to Claudia Bridges' nearby home, down Cedar Creek Road.

"[We] don't know which way the fire is going to go. We are just on pins and needles," Bridges said.

Miles away, forest service workers tried to predict the fire's next move in their operations center near the Fayetteville Regional Airport.

"It is challenging figuring out where you want to put resources," said Phil Wallace with the forest service. "The high winds are really pushing the fire today."

The cause of the fire is still being investigated, authorities said.

Forestry officials said 95 fires were contained across the state Monday, covering 401 acres. Another 22 fires totaling 831 acres, including a 600-acre fire in Cumberland County, were not contained as of 5:30 p.m. The fire grew to engulf 800 acres in flames about 7:30 p.m., according to forestry officials.

Wildfires popped up across the state over the weekend due to dry conditions, warm temperatures and gusty winds. The threat of wildfires continued Monday, a Forest Service spokesman said.