Woods fire threatens homes

Published 8:44 am Tuesday, September 28, 2010

RICH SQUARE — A forest fire threatened approximately 100 homes near here over the weekend.

On Saturday, approximately 60 responders from 12 different agencies battled the blaze that burned 194 acres off U.S. 258 and NC 308 just south of Rich Square.

According to Northampton County Forest Ranger Rodney Black, the fire was reported around 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Black said Rich Square Fire Department, the first crew on the scene, initially reported eight fires in the area.

“The big concern was that it was burning toward Rich Square,” Black said.

The fire threatened 100 houses and the former W.S. Creecy Elementary School building. Black estimated $7.5 million worth of property was in danger of being burnt.

Along with Rich Square, Lasker and Woodland fire departments also responded. In all, 10 volunteer fire engines were used to fight the flames. Black said forest service machinery included four bulldozers/tractor plows, one helicopter dumping water, seven forest service pickup trucks and a scout plane that kept track of where the fire was burning.

Northampton County Emergency Management Tim Byers, who checked responders into the scene, approximated 60 responders help battle the blaze.

Black said the fire was contained by 10 p.m. with no damage to property and no injuries with the exception of one firefighter pulling a muscle. Seven people returned to the scene on Sunday to work on hot spots until rainy conditions set upon the area around 5 p.m.

Despite a report of a Coleman lantern being found near where the fire began, Black said the cause of the blaze was determined to be pieces from a catalytic converter, a device on a muffler system of a vehicle that helps reduce toxic emissions.

“We were fortunate enough to find pieces of it (where the fire started),” said Black.

Catalytic converters can wear over a period of time and experience a “meltdown” where the part experiences extreme heat and can break to pieces slowly.

The county being in a severe drought all summer did not help either. Black said a fire on September 4 in Garysburg burned 100 acres.

“The rain came at the right time, we were reaching the danger level as far as fire threat,” he said.

Black thanked the volunteer firefighters for their help in extinguishing the blaze.