02/11/08 — Winds whip up blazes across region

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Winds whip up blazes across region

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on February 11, 2008 1:46 PM

Brush fires plaguing the state yesterday had some effect on Wayne County as well on Sunday, Fire Marshal Bryan Taylor said.

Taylor said there was one fire in the Grantham area that required a N.C. Department of Natural Resources intervention, as well as another in the Polly Watson fire district.

Taylor said Emergency Services also received a number of calls about brush fires throughout the day.

Across the state, wildfires chased some residents from churches and led others to seek them out for sanctuary as flames fed by strong winds spread in the rain-starved Carolinas and Virginia.

About 60 homes were briefly evacuated Sunday afternoon as a fire sent smoke billowing above this city of about 11,000 people, about 15 miles northwest of Myrtle Beach. No injuries were reported, authorities said.

The Willow Spring Free Will Baptist Church in Cleveland,just south of Raleigh, was holding a worship service when a fire forced it to evacuate, town Fire Chief Chris Ellington said.

The church was spared any damage as high winds whipped the flames across 50 acres, burning two empty barns and threatening about 20 homes, Ellington said. No injuries were reported.

North Carolina forestry spokesman Brian Haines said Monday crews had contained 112 fires on about 1,000 acres across the state late. Some of the fires started when strong winds downed power lines. Other brush fires were sparked by careless trash burning.

Utility officials said more than 5,000 customers in the Carolinas were without power Monday.

Progress Energy said electricity had been restored to all but 141 customers, down from a peak of 24,000 late Sunday. Duke Energy reported 5,525 customers in the dark Monday, including 3,460 customers in Forsyth County.