Fires scorch eastern N.C.

Published 5:29 am Monday, February 11, 2008

By By DAN PARSONS,Staff Writer
Wind-fanned fires kept area firefighters on the move Sunday as brush fires erupted throughout the region and state.
Warm temperatures, dry conditions and 35-mph to 45-mph winds fanned flames that charred at least 45 acres of Beaufort County. Every fire department in Beaufort County responded to one or more of the fires that sparked in several locations throughout the day. Firefighters and fire-fighting equipment from Pitt, Onslow, Craven and Pamlico counties assisted Beaufort County firefighters in battling the scattered blazes.
All of the state was under a red flag warning, meaning outdoor burning is prohibited. The warning stems from the passage of a strong cold front that whipped up the strong winds.
A fire in a woods off Slatestone and Everett roads consumed between 20 and 30 acres, according to Bunyan Volunteer Fire Department Capt. Daniel Adams. At around 1 p.m., Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office deputies and troopers with the N.C. Highway Patrol closed the intersection of Slatestone Road and N.C. Highway 32 to allow firefighters to douse flames.
At that time, smoke could be seen for miles north along the N.C. 32 corridor and rolling miles to the east, carried by gusting winds over green fields of winter wheat. The fire came within feet of the roadway. At some spots along the road, charred grass could be seen on the opposite shoulder where embers had been blown by high winds and started new fires. At 5 p.m., large areas where the Slatestone Road fire burned through continued to billow smoke. Small tongues of flames from debris burning on the ground and skeletal tree trunks still aflame could be seen in several places.
Adams’ department also responded to a brush fire at the eastern end of River Road near Country Club Estates that consumed an estimated 10 to 15 acres. Neither fire threatened property or lives and no injuries were reported, according to Adams. However, there were reports the fire burned an abandoned mobile home.
Bunyan volunteer firefighters were busy spraying water on hot spots at both fires late Sunday. Adams said they would keep at it all night long, looking for flames and dousing them to ensure the fires do not flame up again.
Around 6:15 p.m., Washington firefighters were called to a fire just off U.S. Highway 17 near its intersection with Whichard’s Beach Road.
In Washington County, firefighters with the U.S. Fish &Wildlife Service and the N.C. Division of Forest Resources battled a 50-acre fire. Fires were reported in Martin County, too. A dispatcher with the Hyde County Sheriff’s Office said no wildfires had been reported in Hyde County as of 7:20 p.m. Sunday.
Across the state, at least seven houses were burned by wildfires, Haines said in a brief interview with the Daily News on Sunday.
Winds gusting up to 60 mph in some areas toppled trees and power lines and fanned brush fires across North Carolina on Sunday. One brush fire closed a portion of Interstate 85, and downed power lines rerouted traffic on Interstate 40.
The state Highway Patrol reported a brush fire reduced visibility to zero on I-85 at the Vance-Granville county line. A patrol dispatcher said traffic was being rerouted to U.S. 158 into Granville County.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.