09/12/07 — 225 acres in Duplin burned

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225 acres in Duplin burned

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on September 12, 2007 1:45 PM

An illegal burn is being investigated as the potential cause of a Duplin County wildfire that burned 225 acres Tuesday afternoon.

Beginning at about 4 p.m., more than 200 firefighters from 20 units from Duplin, Wayne and Sampson counties responded to the blaze, which occurred near N.C. 903 on the Kenansville side of Magnolia, between Pearshall Road, Blind Bridge Road and Brooks Quinn Road.

By 11 p.m. firefighters, with the help of the state Forestry Service, had the fire under control.

"It is contained, but it is still burning," Duplin County Emer-gency Management Director Brian Pearce said. "In recent history this is the biggest event we've responded to. It could have been a lot worse. We're pleased with the response."

N.C. Forestry Service Dis-trict 8 ranger and public information officer Ned Berg confirmed that they are still working to put out the remnants of the fire today -- a process that's likely to take some time.

"We are trying to do some mop-up work on it and get to some of these hot spots," he said. "We're going to be here a while."

He blamed the weather conditions for the way the fire spread Tuesday.

"The winds we had yesterday were a little unexpected, plus the drought and the low humidity yesterday. It just takes one ember," he said. "That's why we're going to be on it so long."

In fact, he added, he noticed Tuesday that the winds were carrying ash from the fire to his home in Trenton.

He also explained that because of the drought and the lack of ground moisture, they have to be extra careful in making sure all the hot spots are identified and extinguished, because the organic materials in the ground can actually burn.

"That's what we're facing this morning," he said.

Also this morning, the county emergency management department and the forestry service are still working through their damage assessments.

Of the 225 acres, approximately 75 were farm fields, while the other 150 were woods.

There were, though, Pearce said, two, possibly three houses burned, as well as a garage, several cars and two turkey houses believed to be abandoned.

He also said that several people were treated at the scene for minor injuries, while one firefighter was taken to Duplin General Hospital for heat exhaustion.

The fire is believed to have begun somewhere off of U.S. 117, south of Magnolia.

"At this point they believe it to be from an ember from a previous illegal burn. They're still doing an investigation, so they haven't cited anybody yet," Pearce said.

The state has been under a burning ban since mid-August because of the drought and high temperatures. Berg added that he does not expect it to be lifted anytime soon.

"We've had a pretty bad year this fire season," he said. "We started back in February and have kept going, and we're going to be into it as long as we have a deficit of rain."