Let it burn out

Smoke from a wildfire on uninhabited Brown's Island blows over the water Thursday near Marshallberg. The N.C. Forest Service decided to let the blaze burn itself out. (Lillie Chadwick photo)

(Updated 10:55 a.m. May 24)

MARSHALLBERG — A wildfire broke out in the early morning hours Thursday on uninhabited Brown’s Island, between Marshallberg and Harkers Island, but by the afternoon, the N.C. Forest Service had decided to let it burn itself out.

Derrick Moore, district ranger for the forest service, said the agency surveyed the fire from the air before making the decision.

“One consideration was that if we let it burn out, it would probably be pretty much gone by tonight,” before the vast majority of tourists arrive for Memorial Day weekend, he said around 3 p.m. Thursday.

Another factor was that the fire was on an isolated island and there was no good reason to endanger the safety of firefighting crews.

It posed no threat to the mainland, and an aerial survey indicated animals on the island – horses, cattle and a few sheep – had found safe havens. The forest service, he said, helped in that process.

Mr. Moore said a lot of thought, discussion and consultation went into the decision to not actively fight the fire, which was already consuming about 10 to 12 acres of grassy and wooded area by mid-morning.

By noon, smoke had spread to Marshallberg and Straits, where one resident said on Facebook that white ash was falling.

 “It’s a bad time in the Berg right now,” resident Michelle Nolin posted.

After the decision was made to let the fire burn out, a forest service helicopter deployed some aerial ignition devices to hasten the process.

Mr. Moore said smoke could affect the general area for a couple of days, but the worst should be over by Friday morning.

He said he has no idea what started the blaze. There were no storms in the area Wednesday night or early Thursday, he said, and no reports of any “dry lightning” that could have ignited the brush, which is very dry because of a recent lack of rainfall.

Mr. Moore said he believes the fire might have started around 2 a.m.

Brent Toler, head ranger for the Carteret County office of the state forest service, said he arrived on scene at about 4 a.m. He and Mr. Moore were still on the scene late Thursday afternoon, as were county emergency management officials.

By 9 a.m., before the decision was made to let the fire burn itself out, crews were staging at a picnic area near the shore off Marshallberg Road.

Late Thursday afternoon, Mr. Toler provided an update to the county, which was posted on the Carteret County Emergency Services Department’s Facebook page.

In it, he stated the fire began as a wildfire but transitioned to a controlled burn as a “mitigation tool.” Officials were still on scene monitoring it.

Mr. Toler added that the animals were still safe.


Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.

Previous report

MARSHALLBERG — Multiple fire departments in eastern Carteret County, as well as the N.C. Forest Service, are responding to what has been described as a large fire on Brown’s Island.

Brown’s Island, which is uninhabited, is in The Straits, between Marshallberg on the mainland and Harkers Island.

According to a scanner report shortly after 9 a.m., crews are staging in a park in Marshallberg.

Residents in the area may see smoke related to the fire.

This is a developing report. 

(2) comments


What started as a small area burning on the east end of the island has now progressed to fires set from one end of the island to the other. Whose idea was this and what happens to all the animals that live there? We saw a helicopter flying over the island dropping something. Later there were fires popping up everywhere.

Core Sounder

Very little that the fire dept can do if the truth be told. Reckon they are trying to get it to burn faster so they can go back home. Folks should be able to go over there and help some of the animals though in order to get them away from the smoke and fire.

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