Windy, warm weather brings wildfires

Posted March 23, 2011 8:29 a.m. EDT
Updated March 23, 2011 8:25 p.m. EDT

— Near-record warmth and high winds have 87 counties across North Carolina on alert for fire danger through Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

With forecast highs in the low 80s, winds gusting to 30 mph and humidity below 30 percent, any fires that ignite would spread quickly.

The North Carolina Division of Forest Resources reported two fires Wednesday afternoon – one encompassing 30 acres in Hoke County and another over 12 acres in western Sampson County. No homes were in danger and the fires were under control, officials said.

A major fire was burning in 15 acres of woods along White Woods Road near Salemburg, according to Ronald Bass with the Sampson County Emergency Management. Bass said multiple fire departments were fighting the fire which may have damaged one home.

Bass said other fires flared up in woods on Spell, Green Path and Boykin Bridge roads, but no damage to property was associated with those fires. 

Officials asked state residents to avoid burning outdoors Wednesday and Thursday until the danger of fire had passed. Instead of burning outdoors, officials suggest that brush be composted or piled until after the next soaking rainfall.

The threat will pass by evening as a cold front brings temperatures back down into a more normal range.

By 3 p.m., the temperature had topped out at 79 degrees at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport. The forecast high is 82. That is about 20 degrees above normal and just shy of the record for March 23 (86 degrees, set in 1948).

Temperatures the rest of the week will peak at about 60 degrees. The cold front brings a chance rain developing over the weekend and sticking around into next week.