Fire from Debris Burn Scorches 250 Acres after N.C. Burn Ban Lifted

January 8, 2008

A debris burn that apparently got out of control scorched approximately 250 acres in Washington County, N.C., on Sunday, just four days after the state temporarily lifted an outdoor burning ban.

No injuries were reported and only a few people had to leave their homes, according to officials.

“Debris burning has been the cause of all the fires and, historically in North Carolina, is the number one cause of wildland fires,” said Ed Christopher, district forester for District 13 of the state Division of Forest Resources.

A second fire burned three acres in the town of Roper, N.C..

Christopher said the larger fire was contained late Sunday afternoon, although there was concern that the lingering flames could jump the containment and start a new fire.

Three fires were reported on Saturday in Washington, Tyrrell and Hyde counties. Those fires burned a total of eight acres, Christopher said.

The larger fire in the unincorporated area of Pea Ridge was ignited after a farmer attempted to burn his fields, according to Christopher.

A helicopter dumped water on the blaze, as did a single-engine air tanker from Kinston, which made four drops on the fire.

Christopher said one of the factors helping the fire was a sea breeze coming off nearby Albemarle Sound, which fanned the flames.

On Jan. 2, officials temporarily lifted the outdoor burning ban, saying recent rains provided enough water to make conditions safer for controlled fires.

The burning was expected to help reduce built-up underbrush and forest vegetation that could lead to larger and more intense wildfires later in the year, especially during the spring fire season.

Regulators instituted the burning ban in mid-October because of a worsening drought that depleted water resources and left the region with a dry landscape. State officials said they will continue to monitor conditions and could reinstate the ban if conditions change.

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