Brown's Island fire

N.C. Forest Service officials investigate the Brown’s Island wildfire that broke out Thursday. (N.C. Forest Service photo)

MARSHALLBERG – The N.C. Forest Service said Sunday the cause of the large fire Thursday and Friday on privately owned, uninhabited Brown’s Island is still under investigation.

In a press release on its Facebook page, the NCFS said it was alerted to the fire, which started in the early hours of Thursday morning, by a 911 call. Brown’s Island is between Marshallberg, on the mainland, and Harkers Island.

“Initially the fire was estimated to be about 6 to 10 acres in size involving three different landowners,” the release states. “Carteret County Ranger and Incident Commander Brent Toler with the NCFS began planning options to control the wildfire and contacted area residents and fire department members.

 “A NCFS scout plane was used to size up the fire and determine the best course of action, circling the island for a couple hours to give updates and look for any people who may have been on the island.

“Command was transferred to District Ranger Derrick Moore, who flew with Assistant Regional Forester Laura Hendrick in a NCFS helicopter on a recon flight to look at all possibilities to determine the next course of action,” the release continues.

“A decision was made to perform a burnout operation with aerial ignition to mitigate the situation and control the intensity of the fire.

“Brent Toler was in the helicopter to oversee the burnout operations. All the landowners contacted agreed with the decision.

“Wildlife on the island had evacuated the wildfire area into the marsh and beach edge and were accounted for during the recon flight, pre-burning operations, during the burning operations and afterwards.”

The wildlife on the island includes horses, cattle and sheep, in addition to birds.

According to the release, “Smoke was produced from storm debris and downed trees on the forest floor. Many dead trees and beetle-killed pine timber were observed during the recon flight.

“The top priority during the entire operation was safety of life for citizens and firefighters, followed by wildlife and the ecosystem of the land. The cause of this fire is under investigation.”

Mr. Moore said last week he had no idea what might have started the blaze. There were no storms in the area Wednesday night or early Thursday morning, 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.

The release states NCFS “thanks and recognizes Harkers Island Fire Rescue and Marshallberg Fire Department, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, Carteret County Emergency Services and the Carteret County Managers Office.

“The NCFS also thanks the citizens and visitors of Carteret County who notified authorities about the wildfire and assisted with local history and information during this incident.”

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

(1) comment

Core Sounder

the wife and I rode around that island yesterday by boat just to see what we could see. Saw one yellow/tan horse near the marsh and was the only sign of life we could see other than lots of green head flies which will eat you up if you get too close to land. I can only imagine the pain and torture that these animals must contend with every day due to all of those biting flies and sketters. Those animals may look majestic on that Island, along Shackleford banks and over on Town marsh but imagine they probably think different. We can spray ourselves with bug spray or even jump in our boats and run away but these animals don't have that option. It was nice to see that horse yesterday but noticed when we got up closer that it spent the entire time using his tail to keep the flies away .

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