Train blamed for two field fires

Published 6:18 am Tuesday, June 24, 2008

By Staff
Evans Road blaze continues to burn
Staff Writer
There is no rest for the weary. Two field fires broke out Monday in Beaufort County while nearly 300 state and local firefighters continue to fight a massive wildfire in neighboring counties. While that fire was caused by a lightning strike, Monday’s fires are thought to have been sparked by a passing locomotive.
A train that rolled through Beaufort County on Monday afternoon may have sparked two fields fires in northern Beaufort County, one of which was clearly visible from Slatestone Road.
The GP9 deisel/electric locomotive was heading north with a load of cars bound for Belhaven and Plymouth, according to Virgil Holman, general manager of Coastal Carolina Railway. The railroad company was contacted by law-enforcement officers that responded to the scene.
Trains pass through Beaufort County two or three times each week, but none have ever sparked fires, according to Holman.
The railroad company dispatched a mechanic to investigate the incident and to check on the rail cars, a move to “try to assure us that it was not the train that set it,” Holman said.
Members of the N.C. Forest Service responded with tractor/plow units to dig fire breaks around the fires.
Meanwhile, the Evans Road fire in Hyde, Tyrrell and Washington counties continued to burn despite two inches of rain having fallen on portions of the blaze Sunday. The 41,060-acre fire remained 75 percent contained Monday, though the N.C. Forestry Service team battling the blaze has been scaled back to 273 people, according to reports Monday from the forestry service.
Crews standing by on containment lines along the fire’s perimeter reported fewer flare-ups over the past two days, according to Brown. But, the threat of increased fire activity remains and could be compounded if drier, windier weather conditions return.
A burning ban remains in effect for Hyde, Washington, Tyrrell and Beaufort counties and other counties in southeastern North Carolina. A fire-prevention team comprised of members of several state and local agencies will be working in northeastern North Carolina to inform people about the dry conditions and risk of fires as we approach the July 4 holiday.
Fireworks planned for Washington’s Summer Festival were canceled as a result of the burning ban. It was not immediately clear if fireworks displays scheduled for Fourth of July celebrations in eastern North Carolina will be affected by the burning ban.