Local crews step in to help with Western NC wildfires


GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Crews from eastern North Carolina are stepping in to help with more than a dozen wildfires continue wreaking havoc in the western part of North Carolina.

Firefighters say higher humidity is helping battle the flames, yet still, many roads are closed and many families have been forced from their homes.

About 1,400 firefighters are battling these wildfires, including some crews from eastern North Carolina.

Local departments from Lenoir, Pamlico, Carteret, Onslow, and Pitt Counties are assisting with manpower and resources.

Jacksonville Fire and Emergency Services deployed a team of four firefighters and one engine to Rutherford County .

“The Office of the State Fire Marshall made a request to fire agencies in eastern North Carolina Fire for 50 engines and 200 personnel to assist with structural protection related to the wildfire,” said Chief Spencer Lee, Jacksonville Fire and Emergency Services.   “We circulated a request for volunteers and staffed a team that departed on Saturday for a seven-day deployment.”

Captain Kevin Davis, driver operator Bert Riegelsperger, driver operator Eron Ferrell and firefighter Victor Salazar departed from Jacksonville aboard Engine One and are expected to return on November 20.

The fires have burned more than 23,000 acres in Western NC.

Firefighters say the fire danger will rise as drier weather returns and more leaves fall.

“The fire picked up and ran so hard so fast that it literally beat us to the punch when it comes time to light it off. We just didn’t see that coming,” said Bill Swartley with NC Forest Service Water Resources.

Governor Pat McCrory has issued a state of emergency in several counties. He’s holding a press conference in Lake Lure Monday morning to give an update on containment efforts.

Mandatory evacuations are spreading as the fires started crossing containment lines.

Officials say there haven’t been any injuries or structures burned so far and they’re working to keep it that way.

“The fire got within 20 yards of one home, another half dozen homes it got about one tenth of a mile,” said Rusty Dillinger, a County Ranger with the NC Fire Service.

Investigators suspect possible arson in these fires. There have been arson arrests in Tennessee and Kentucky, but none so far in North Carolina.

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