State News

Cumberland fire possibly lit by controlled burn

Posted February 23, 2011 9:22 a.m. EST
Updated February 23, 2011 3:55 p.m. EST

— The owner of land ravaged by a still-burning fire in Cumberland County says she believes the fire started as a controlled burn and is questioning why state officials permitted it in the first place.

The Fayetteville Observer reports that Privateer Farm owner Sharon Valentine believes the fire began as a controlled burn on neighboring property.

Authorities say increasing winds sparked those smoldering remnants to ignite an explosive fire that has consumed some 1,000 acres so far.

Firefighters say the blaze is 40 percent contained but still threatens a nearby 3,400-acre wetlands restoration project. Valentine is questioning why the state Forest Service would permit a controlled burn during a series of red flag warnings that discourage outdoor burning.

Marshall Hartsfield, the owner of Woodland Management Inc., told WRAL News that he monitored the site of one he started last week for several days and was putting sand on hot spots Monday morning.

Winds picked up later in the day, Hartsfield said, noting that he had no idea that a wildfire would erupt from the area. He said he has been performing controlled burns for 26 years.