PENDER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- The wildfire in Pender County is still burning out of control. Crews are plowing multiple fire lines across the holly shelter game land in hopes of keeping the fire from crossing the highways.
The blaze seems to be growing by the minute. Just today, the fire grew about 8,000 acres totaling more than 18,000 acres in all.
“We have tractor plow strike teams working on the fire, building line in places where we can take advantage of power lines and fire breaks that are in place,” said Bruce MacDonald, a spokesman for the N.C. Forest Service. “It's extremely dry fuels so they're burning in extreme conditions.”
The fire, which most likely sparked from a lightning strike over the weekend, has gathered momentum over the past few days with hardly any progress in putting it out. No roads have been closed, but the North Carolina Department of Transportation is prepared to close Highway 50 if needed.
Shelters have been set up at Onslow County's Southwest Middle School and Topsail Elementary in Hampstead. Voluntary evacuations have been issued for anyone living west of Highway 17 between the Onslow County line and Sloop Point Road.
“We have it staffed with four volunteers,” said Mathew Allen, the Red Cross shelter manager at Topsail Elementary. “We're here to assess the evacuation people if they need a place to stay. We are prepared to be here as long as we are needed.”
Crews are attempting to contain the fire through working around the edges of the flames.
“We’re working right now on the upwind sides of the fire, trying to strengthen lines so that when the winds do shift, we'll hopefully be able to hold it in place,” said MacDonald.
The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources has issued a ban on open burning for 27 eastern counties including New Hanover, Brunswick, Bladen, Columbus and Pender.