Woods fire destroys timberland

Published 10:26 am Tuesday, March 4, 2014

INDIAN WOODS – A mid-afternoon woods blaze in southwestern Bertie County was contained within five hours thanks to the efforts of area fire departments and the NC Forest Service.

According to county Emergency Services Manager Mitch Cooper units were dispatched Sunday around 3 p.m. to 1105 Indian Woods Road, south of Lewiston.  First on the scene were the Blue Jay Fire Department and the Forest Service.

The area where the fire occurred is cutover timberland, and the lack of range timber is possibly what kept the blaze from spreading further; especially to other timberlands, Cooper said.

The burn area covered lands owned by several different landowners and the blaze was finally contained with a fire-line around the perimeter at 8 p.m. Sunday evening.

Cooper went on to add that there was one structure that was consumed by the blaze; an old abandoned barn.

“We’re still investigating the cause,” said Bertie County Forest Ranger Mike Hoggard. “We think it was started by some escaped burning debris, possibly a trash fire.”

As of Monday afternoon, with the area in the midst of inclement weather, Hoggard said he and his staff had not been to the fire site during daylight for another inspection of the damage.

Hoggard said in addition to the Forest Service and the Blue Jay VFD, other units that assisted with the blaze were the Lewiston Fire Department and tanker units from Millennium and Oak City.

“We had equipment from Bertie and Martin County to assist us with putting down fire lanes,” Hoggard said.

While the actual cause is still unknown, Hoggard warns residents to be especially careful with burning at this time of year.

“On days when the humidity is low and the wind is blowing we get a lot of dry air,” Hoggard said. “That’s what really fuels a fire.”

Though there were some 12 homes in the area of the blaze, Hoggard said because of the placement of the fire trucks, none of those structures were in immediate danger. The trucks were placed along their route for protection and safety.

Hoggard said other Forest Service personnel who had been by the fire location reported some smoke and smoldering as of Monday A.M., but he believes that the Monday afternoon rains will extinguish any fire that remained.

Hoggard had a warning for anyone who may feel that late winter-early spring is a good time for outdoor open field burning.

“Wait for wetter days,” said the Ranger. “Things are getting dry on the surface, but with wind and low humidity, once a fire gets going, it could really take off.”