More aircraft joining fight as Pender wildfire grows


PENDER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — The Juniper Road Fire in the Holly Shelter Game Land continues to grow. As the fire moves across Pender County and into Onslow County voluntary evacuations are in place and shelters are open.

“It definitely grew yesterday and continues to burn actively,” NC Forest Service Information Officer Bruce MacDonald said.

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As of this morning the fire had burned more than 18,000 acres. The Pender County fire grows in all directions. Crews say the most movement is to the northeast, where the wind drove it into Onslow County.

“If the conditions fall off long enough for the fire to settle down somewhere, it might hold there, at least for a while,” MacDonald said. “The problem is it can come back pretty quickly, and we’re looking at wind conditions a lot like yesterday, which were pretty tough. There’s a good chance it will continue to move.”

As of Thursday afternoon there had been no injuries associated with the fire, but there are voluntary evacuation orders along NC 50 and in the Traders Neck area of Pender County.

“We’re still prepared if we need to do a closure of Highway 50 if the fire approaches, if the smoke conditions cause us to close this road for safety sake,” MacDonald said. “We have the things in place so that can happen quickly but right now we don’t have any road closures.”

But on the game land the conditions are dire. Officials say that the fire has moved as much as a couple of miles in a couple of hours. Now additional resources are needed to help fight the fire.

Currently the NC Forest Service is using two helicopters as well as a CL-215 aircraft to make water drops on the blaze. Even still they may need more.

“We have some other aircraft on order, and as we get those in, then we’ll know we have them. We need to get those in,” MacDonald said.

They are also using burnout fire or controlled burns to fight the fire. Firefighters are also hoping for a little help from mother nature.

“It is going to take considerable rainfall with the organic soils that are burning and will continue to smolder for a long time,” MacDonald said.

Despite shelters being opened, no one stay in them last night.

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