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Fire burns 129 acres

AHOSKIE – What caused a woods fire that scorched 129 acres near here Sunday remains under investigation.

Hertford County Forest Ranger Michael Hughes said the fire started mid-afternoon along a section of railroad tracks between Early Station Road and Brickmill Road.

Aided by a brisk north-northwest wind, the fire spread rapidly through a pine plantation and cut-over area. Hughes said the majority of the burned timberland is owned by the Forestry Initiative Association (formerly International Paper property). The remainder, a small portion just north of the railroad track, is owned by Weyerhaeuser.

“The fire burned on both sides of the tracks, but the brunt of it moved south-southeast back towards the Hexlena area,” Hughes said.

A foursome of Forest Service tractors (one each from Hertford, Bertie, Martin and Chowan County) were able to contain the fire by plowing lines around the blaze. That effort was aided by three Forest Service planes and one Weyerhaeuser helicopter, each dropping water and fire retardant.

Meanwhile, a Forest Service scout plane circled high overhead, directing the firefighting effort on the ground and in the air. Hughes said the Forest Service had 10 personnel on the ground, including the four tractor operators.

Aiding in the effort were members and equipment from the Ahoskie Rural Fire Department (positioned on the Early Station Road) and Millennium Volunteer Fire Department (on the Brickmill Road).

Hughes said dry conditions helped fuel the fire.

“We had a fire weather warning on Friday and Saturday, meaning that high wind, high temperatures and low humidity levels made conditions ripe for wildfires,” Hughes noted. “That warning is no longer in effect, but I do caution anyone that has a permit to burn debris to be extremely careful. I would suggest burning small piles of debris and make sure that you have a water source and a rake in case the fire gets out of hand.”

Hughes said burning permits are still available.