Local News

Weather helps in fighting Cumberland wildfire

Posted February 22, 2011 11:44 a.m. EST
Updated February 22, 2011 10:35 p.m. EST

— Mother Nature has lent a hand to crews battling a wildfire that has burned more than 800 acres of woods in southern Cumberland County.

The lower temperatures, higher humidity levels and calmer winds Tuesday allowed firefighters to contain about 40 percent of the fire, which continues to burn along Tabor Church Road, near N.C. Highway 53 at the Bladen County line.

Flames that rolled over treetops on Monday were no more than 2 feet high Tuesday, firefighters said. Smoke that had choked the area has since dissipated.

The wind also changed direction, pushing the flames back over areas that have already burned, officials said.

"The swamp on the southern side of the fire has not been contained because we have not been able to quite walk in that area because it's so wet," said Andrew Snyder of the state Division of Forest Resources.

Snyder said the fire isn't threatening any homes, so evacuations are unlikely. Lingering smoke could be a problem, however.

"If you have got asthma problems and breathing problems, be aware of those things," he said.

The fire was sparked Monday afternoon and quickly spread across the woodland in the Cedar Creek area. The cause of the fire is still being investigated, authorities said.

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.

Hundreds of acres of Sharon Valentine's property were charred from the blaze.

"I was heartsick. We had old-growth longleaf pines out there. We have 300 acres of new pine trees that have set out," she said.

Valentine's land, known as Privateer Farms, is about 6,000-acres. She converted the old farmland into a conservation area by planting native pines and hardwoods.

Longleaf pines are flame resistant and can even thrive in fire, so Valentine has hope.

The fires caused a power outage for 3,300 Progress Energy customers on Monday night when a wooden transmission structure was burned, officials said.

Forestry officials said Tuesday that 37 fires are burning across the state and 267 acres fires have been contained. Another four fires totaling more than 1,100 acres weren't contained.

Wildfires popped up across the state over the weekend due to dry conditions, warm temperatures and gusty winds.