Northampton records five fires

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 11, 2008

Wildfires that raged across Northampton County on Sunday threatened dozens of homes and burned 321 acres.

Northampton County NC Forest Service Ranger Rodney Black said with a mixture of high winds and low humidity it didn’t take much to start the five wildfires that took place within the county.

Passing trains and downed power lines were among the causes for the blazes.

One of the largest fires occurred in Rich Square and burned 208 acres.

Black said the fire was reported at around 2:30 p.m. and appeared to have originated near the railroad tracks on the east side of town on Highway 305.

Black said either a passing train or a power line might have sparked the blaze, though the investigation was still ongoing.

He added the fire threatened 14 homes and Rich Square Cotton Gin, Inc.

Black said at the time two NC Forest Service bulldozers were tied up at another wild fire when the call came in.

He said a fire line is basically a ditch that is dug to remove fuel (dry sticks, plants etc.) from the area and ultimately contain the fire.

He credited Rich Square, Woodland and Lasker Volunteer Fire Departments for maintaining the blaze in the hours before the bulldozers could be brought in.

Black said the fire was under control by 3:30 a.m. and on Monday morning crews were putting out “hot spots.”

No injuries were reported.

A 70-acre wild fire in Pendleton threatened six homes and Willis-Hare Elementary School on Sunday as well.

Black said the call for the fire came in at approximately 12:10 p.m. and appeared to have originated near a set of railroad tracks around Highway 35.

A passing train is suspected as the source of ignition.

Black said five volunteer fire departments were involved with battling the blaze, which burned 70-acres of woodland and field, including Conway, Severn, Murfreesboro, Gaston and Garysburg Volunteer Fire Departments.

Black said at one point, a volunteer fireman needed medical attention when a hot ember struck him in the face or neck. Black said it was not a serious injury and none were reported.

CAB Construction in Conway brought in a bulldozer to dig a fire line and the fire was contained by 5 p.m.

Other fires in Northampton County reported on Sunday included a 12-acre fire in a remote area on Bowthall Cook Road near Rich Square. A 30-acre blaze in Gaston was also reported (Gaston Volunteer Fire Department responded) and a one acre fire in Henrico, which was handled by the Roanoke Rapids/Wildwood Fire Departments.

Black said no injuries were reported or structures were damaged in the county. He also thanked the volunteer fire departments for their work.

“They’re the ones that do a great job,” he said.

Black said traditionally the fire season begins in March, but with the area being in its third year of drought the upcoming season is foreboding.

“Our fire season is officially here,” he said. “We’re setting up for a bad fire season.”