BEAUFORT — After more than a week of nearly continuous firefighting, Carteret County Forest Ranger Brent Toler of the N.C. Forest Service isn’t quite ready to declare victory over the spate of blazes that sprung up in locations from Newport to Down East.
But, he said Thursday, “All our fires got some helpful rain (Wednesday). We still have some hot spots to watch and monitor.”
He added that predictions of rain over the weekend and into next week as Tropical Storm Isaias approaches from the south and east are a good sign the tinder-box conditions will ease, at least some.
“Some of that rain would definitely help with the fire danger,” he said. “Good rain fell, but some areas are so dry it needs more.”
The forest service conducted a successful controlled burn Monday at the Camp Sam Hatcher fire off Eckerd Road in Newport. When combined with the 150 acres consumed by flame before it was successfully contained Sunday, that brought the total area burned to 191 acres.
The controlled burn was deemed necessary because hot spots were still burning and the fire still had vegetative “fuel” and is not far from structures, including Broad Creek Elementary School.
Other fires in the past week include one that burned about 8 acres in Otway off Crow Hill Road, one off Terry Lane in Newport that burned 2.5 acres and another that burned about an acre off Cummins Creek Road in Merrimon.
Numerous homes and other structures have been saved by the efforts of the forest service and local fire department employees and volunteers who worked in often stifling heat and humidity.
Containing and dousing the fires required not only firefighters, but also equipment like tractors from the forest service to dig containment lines and cut through woods to get to critical points. In the case of the Camp Sam Hatcher fire, the local forest service office tankers brought in two aerial tankers to drop water to protect structures.
Mr. Toler said Thursday he feels better about the situation since the extremely dry conditions seem to have improved some and likely to continue to do so.
“We’re not calling (the recent fires) out just yet, until there is no smoke anywhere and we can walk away,” he noted.
All of the fires have been monitored daily, either on the ground, in the air or both.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.