Smoke from field fire seen from far and wide

Published 8:10 am Thursday, July 3, 2008

By Staff
More than 200 acres burned Wednesday
Senior Reporter
CHOCOWINITY — A hot, summer Wednesday afternoon saw a barn fire turn an area on Cayton Road near Chocowinity into an inferno within a matter of minutes.
Billows of dark, black smoke could be seen for miles from a barn that started burning at about 12:30 p.m. Wednesday. As the fire spread into a nearby wheat field, even more smoke entered the sky.
Firefighters rushed to the scene to find the barn destroyed and areas burning around the barn that were ignited by embers carried on swift winds.
After the wheat field was ignited, the fight was on.
After screaming through the 20-acre wheat field near the Beaufort County/Pitt County line southwest of Chocowinity, the fire spread into 75 acres of yellow pine trees and killed them, Avery said.
Most of the volunteer fire departments that responded to the fire had left the scene by 4:30 p.m. Only a handful of firefighters and equipment from volunteer organizations were there then.
The fire departments tended the smoldering barn and worked on the burning perimeter of the wheat field. In addition, they provided protection for structures that could have been victims of the blaze.
Almost from the start of the fire, the Forest Service was at the scene with three tractor plows, several brush trucks, three airplanes and a helicopter with a water bucket.
The plows dug containment lines around the burning areas. The lines are ditches cut into the soil made wide enough that the fire will not be able to jump over the lines and continue into more acreage.
While the plows were working on the ground, the helicopter was continually ferrying buckets of water from a nearby water source to the most-advanced points of the fire.
A reconnaissance plane flew constantly above the fire at an altitude that did not interfere with operations being conducted by the helicopter and two other planes.
Of the two other planes, one was a guide plane and the other was a plane similar to a crop duster. The guide plane would lead the other plane to the most-advanced points of the fire where the other plane would drop flame retardant.
Chocowinity Volunteer Fire Department firefighter Andy Woolard said the fast response to the fire by the many volunteer fire departments was a major reason why the fire was corralled quickly and did not affect structures other than the barn.
The Chocowinity Volunteer Fire Department thanked all of the mutual-aid fire organizations that came to the fire, Woolard said.
In addition to Chocowinity Volunteer Fire Department, other volunteer fire departments at the scene included ones from Blounts Creek, Bunyan, Clark’s Neck, Black Jack and Vanceboro.
Woolard said the firefighters appreciated water, drinks and food that was provided by residents in the area, Chocowinity EMS and The Greater Pamlico Area Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Also at the fire scene were the N.C. Highway Patrol and deputies from the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.
At dusk Wednesday, the Cayton Road fire was not under control, said Beaufort County Emergency Management Coordinator John Pack.
Pack said Emergency Management posted smoke-warning signs before nightfall Wednesday on roads near the fire.
Pack said the Forest Service will attack the fire again this morning.
Avery said there were no injuries reported at the fire.