Winds shifts in nick of time

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 11, 2008

AHOSKIE – In a complete role reversal, Sunday’s stiff wind proved as an ally rather than an enemy to local emergency responders.

A wind-whipped forest fire Sunday afternoon was making a beeline for several homes along US 13, Arrow Road and the DT Road, but the brisk breeze changed directions slightly enough to keep the fire in the woods where it was contained.

The fire, estimated at approximately 30 acres, was believed to have begun in the woods behind Higher Ground Church, located just south of Ahoskie.

“We’re thinking right now that the wind blew a limb into a power line and that’s what sparked the fire,” Paul Cherry, chief of the Ahoskie Rural Fire Department, said.

Cherry said the fire moved southeast, basically parallel to US 13, before flaring off to the east.

“There were 12 homes in the fire’s direct path, but thankfully the wind kept the fire in the woods,” Cherry said. “Thankfully we didn’t suffer any damage to any of the homes.”

A total of 49 firefighters and 12 units representing Ahoskie Rural, Winton, Millennium and Powellsville responded. Instead of sending the units off to chase the smoke, Cherry opted to set-up a command center at the empty lot next to Precision Lube.

“By doing that, myself and (Hertford County Forest Ranger) Michael (Hughes) were able to better coordinate our efforts and send manpower and equipment exactly where they were needed,” Cherry said. “Our number one priority was protecting the homes lying in the path of the fire.”

Also providing assistance was Ahoskie Rescue Squad and Hertford County EMS along with seven law enforcement units (representing Ahoskie Police Department, Hertford County Sheriff’s Office and NC Highway Patrol) to help with traffic control.

“We thank everyone, paid or volunteer, for helping us,” Cherry said. “Thanks to that effort, we didn’t lose a single home in what could have been a big mess with all that wind.”

Cherry also thanked the Powellsville Fire Department’s Ladies Auxiliary for bringing water and soft drinks to the firefighters.

Ahoskie Rural Fire Department cleared the scene at 8:15 p.m.