Wildfire corralled

First Posted: 7/14/2014

HAMLET — Fire crews spent Monday afternoon trying to contain and extinguish a blaze off of County Home Road between Rockingham and Hamlet.

Calvin White, assistant chief of the Hamlet Fire Department, said the call was initially made to the Rockingham Fire Department around 2:20 p.m. and firefighters held the perimeter until his crew could arrive.

He said the fire appears to have started in a dip along the right-of-way of the power line behind Mount Calvary Rock of Ages Church. White said it could’ve been worse if it had started higher on the hill.

The N.C. Forest Service had two tractors creating containment lines and a plane observing the fire from overhead.

White said the Hamlet Fire Department was “in charge of protecting homes if it gets worse.”

“Hopefully, it will not,” he said around 3:30 p.m. as the fire crackled in the woods.

At that time, he estimated that at least 10-15 acres had burned and no houses had caught fire from falling embers.

Several times throughout the afternoon, the flames topped the surrounding pine trees.

White said even though Richmond County has seen recent rains, the soil in the Sandhills absorbs moisture a lot quicker.

He added high summer temperatures have helped to dry the surrounding land, allowing the fire to spread more quickly.

Moderate winds didn’t help firefighters’ efforts either.

The National Weather Service reported 15 mph winds in the area.

White said the wind had changed direction several times within the first hour.

“With this wind blowing, it can do some strange things,” he said.

Hotspots kept flaring up near where the fire entered the woods, even after being plowed over.

As of 8:30 p.m., Sam Niemeyer with the N.C. Forest Service said the fire was contained and secure for the night.

Niemeyer said crews would be checking on it throughout the night and Tuesday morning.

He estimated that 25-30 acres had burned, but won’t have specific details until later.

The cause of the fire is still undetermined.

Reach reporter William R. Toler at 910-817-2675.