Officials: Largest New Hanover County fire since 1986

NEW HANOVER COUNTY -- Officials say it's the largest fire in New Hanover County since 1986.

The brush fire that broke out yesterday spanned more than 1,200 acres between Holly Shelter and Sidbury Roads.

New Hanover County officials say the fire is contained and worked today to make sure it doesn't spread any further.

In the meantime Holly shelter road will be closed until further notice.

Ranger John Ambrose of the North Carolina Fire Service says he's still working to find out how it happened.

"Right now we have narrowed it down and we do know that it's nothing malicious or negligent, but the cause is still under investigation," Ambrose said.

Ambrose said the surrounding area will be smoky for the next few days and drivers should be extra careful.

Crews continue to keep an eye on what's left of a brush fire in the north end of New Hanover County.

Dispatchers say most crews cleared the scene overnight. You could see the smoke from Thursday's wildfire in northern New Hanover County from points all over New Hanover County. And there was a lot of smoke, and a lot of acreage.

The estimate at this point is the fire covered over 1,200 acres of woodland between Sidbury Road and Holly Shelter Road while firefighters in Pender County anxiously stood by, hoping the wind would not blow the fire their way.

Hampstead Fire Chief Jerry McCaskill said, "The blueberry farm that caught fire on Wednesday is the ideal blueberry farm that NC State University owns. Fortunately the fire occurred in an un-inhabited area that's used a lot for hunting and farming."

Due to the enormous size of the fire, authorities were quick to shut off traffic. And it's a good thing. A part of the fire actually jumped Holly Shelter Road. That part was quickly contained causing some people to miss work.

But with nine tractor plows, three single-engine air tankers, a helicopter and a slew of trucks progress was made on a breezy day with low humidity. Eventually, after a lot of effort and a strong aerial attack, the fire was caught.

Burn ban in effect for New Hanover, Pender, Brunswick and Bladen Counties

Effective at 12:00 p.m. Thursday The North Carolina Forestry Division has issued a State Wide Burning Ban that will be in effect until further notice. In concurrence with the statewide burning ban, Brunswick County Fire Marshal Scott Garner is issuing a Burning Ban for the locally controlled area (100 feet surrounding a structure). Although this ban does not apply to recreational fires such as charcoal or propane grilling, citizens are urged to be extremely cautious with any type of outdoor fire. Citizens are also advised to be cautious when smoking outdoors, and to dispose of cigarettes in the proper manner.

For further information, contact the Brunswick County Fire Marshal’s Office at 910-253-4376 or the North Carolina Forestry Brunswick Headquarters at 910-755-7772.

Burn ban problems

Even though we don't know the cause of Wednesday's fire, it does raise some questions about the local and state wide burn bans.

A statewide burn ban was put back in place Thursday afternoon.

Wednesday's fire was the second woods fire in less than a week in New Hanover County.

A spokesman for the state Division of Forest Resources said that there is careful consideration before deciding to add -- or lift -- a burn ban. A lot of that decision has to do with the weather. In order for a burn ban to be put in place, there needs to be low humidity and high winds.

A spokesman for National Weather Service said it's been one or the other all month, until Wednesday when it was dry and breezy.

Ranger John Ambrose of the state Forest Service says burn bans often have little to do with the threat of wildfire.

New Hanover, Pender, Brunswick and Bladen Counties all issued local burn Thursday this afternoon. This means people in those counties can't burn anything, even if there's no structure nearby.

Charcoal and propane grilling is still allowed but fire officials say it should be done with extreme caution.

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