Wildfire threatened waterfront homes

Published 8:27 am Wednesday, March 11, 2009

By Staff
Blaze scorched 330 acres before firefighters prevailed
Staff Writer
AURORA — A wildfire near Aurora burned 330 acres through Monday night and into Tuesday morning, threatening a waterfront community and a family’s “dream home.”
The fire, which started in the vicinity of some small pine trees off of Tetterton Road, is under investigation as an arson, said Beaufort County Forest Ranger Dean Lucas with the N.C. Division of Forest Resources.
Firefighters with the Aurora Volunteer Fire Department were the first to arrive on scene around 12:45 p.m. Monday, with Capt. Terry Groome serving as incident commander.
The department radioed Forest Resources for backup as wind gusts picked up and carried the fire toward the Summerise waterfront community.
Flames reached 15 feet as rangers arrived, charring the tops of pine trees nestled in the marshland.
A smoke plume was visible from Bayboro, in Pamlico County, said Summerise resident Lilly Brophy.
Brophy and husband Larry were picking up their son, Morgan, at Pamlico Community College in Bayboro as the fire raged out of control.
The Brophys were forced to take a detour on the way back to their house in the Summerise community.
Gromme and Beaufort County Fire Marshall Curtis Avery advised the family to evacuate. “It was pretty frightening,” Lilly Brophy said. “We were very upset about the possibility of anything happening.”
The Brophys rounded up their three dogs and some belongings and hastily, but reluctantly, left their dream house.
The Brophy family, from Connecticut, bought land on the Campbell Creek waterfront more than five years ago and began constructing a three-story house. In October 2007, the Brophys moved in for good.
The family’s next-door neighbors, the Burns family, chose not to evacuate and kept their concerned neighbors up-to-date on the fire.
As night approached, the wind began to die down, and the firefighters and rangers could finally get the wildfire under control.
According to Lucas, they used three tractors with fire plows, two helicopters with water buckets and a scout plane to tame the fire and keep it in the marsh.
The Aurora firefighters and Forest Resources’ rangers got help from Blounts Creek and Grantsboro firefighters, Weyerhauser workers and officers with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
Weyerhauser workers were at the site because the fire threatened land owned by the paper-making company, while WRC officers arrived as the fire edged toward Goose Creek game land.
Although the fire wasn’t completely extinguished, Forest Resources told everyone to pack it in around 10 p.m. Monday. Rangers monitored the fire throughout the night, making sure wind didn’t reignite it.
By Tuesday morning, only hot spots remained across the 330 acres of charred marshland.
Forest Resources’ rangers used a boat to scour the marshland Tuesday, putting out smoky spots here and there.
By 2 p.m., Tuesday, there was no active fire, Lucas said.
Cutline for corresponding photo: Rural Aurora resident Lilly Brophy (in picture), her husband Larry, son Morgan and their dogs escaped harm when firefighters halted a 330-acre brush fire near their home Monday and Tuesday. (WDN Photos/Paul Dunn)