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NC Forest Service uses fire to protect Hampstead from fire

HAMPSTEAD – On Monday, Feb. 15, a fire was reported at a debris landfill located on Running Deer Trail near Hampstead and Holly Shelter Game Land. Upon arrival, fire officials discovered that the 25- to 30-foot landfill consisting of woody debris and soil, approximately four acres in size, was burning despite several inches of rainfall during the previous few days. Despite future rainfall, this debris pile is expected to continue burning for months. Due to the composition and volume of the pile currently on fire, extinguishing the landfill is not feasible as it would pose unnecessary risk for personnel and equipment. Currently, the primary concern is proximity of this fire to Holly Shelter Game Land, the town of Hampstead, and associated communities. The traditional higher winds and lower relative humidity common to this area during spring could allow embers from the landfill to ignite the game land or wooded areas near Hampstead, areas already impacted by several historic wildfires.

N.C. Forest Service personnel used recent periods of wet weather to plan a burnout operation intended to eliminate woody fuels separating the landfill fire from areas of concern. On Feb. 24, the N.C. Forest Service, assisted by Pender County Emergency Management and Pender EMS and Fire, successfully burned 153 acres, now cold, to establish a firebreak. The landfill fire continues to burn and for how long will be determined by weather conditions. Rain will cause the fire to burn slower, extending the burn period while extended dry weather could result in acceleration.

Smoke from the landfill fire is a concern associated with wind direction, specifically winds coming from the west, north and east. Residents and travelers in the area could be impacted by smoke, and in the interest of safety, may need to allow for extra travel time or find alternate routes. The landfill fire and surrounding areas will continue to be monitored locally until the fire is no longer a threat. Smoke advisories may be issued before forecast smoke affects populated areas or roadways.

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