Forest Service crews from Columbus County are among those attacking the Juniper Road Two wildfire in Pender County.
The fire apparently ignited from a lightning strike in the Holly Shelter Game Lands Aug. 9, Phillip Jackson of the N.C Forest Service said. The fire quickly spread since Pender is considered abnormally dry in the state Drought Monitor. Strong winds from offshore pushed the flames as well.
The fire jumped containment lines Aug. 10, but teams using aircraft, plows and strike teams were able to maintain the second fireline. Acreage stood at just over 1,200 acres Monday (today). While much of the fire is on the surface, some areas of bog have caught fire as well, creating underground fires that are difficult to extinguish.
An encroaching weather front assisted the fire teams Sunday and today, as winds shifted to a more favorable direction, away from inhabited areas.
Complicating matters is the topography of the area. The fire is within the footprint of the 30,000-plus acre 2011 Juniper Road fire, which burned for months. The decomposing material from that blaze has caused the ground to be too soft for fire suppression equipment. Anticipated daily rainstorms through Thursday could also help the effort, but some of the ground could also become too boggy to work.
Personnel and equipment from the Columbus N.C. Forest Service office are involved in the fire suppression efforts. More than 60 personnel from multiple agencies are currently on the scene.
The smoke column from the fire was readily visible in Columbus County Friday and Saturday.
Holly Shelter is one of the state’s largest gamelands and state forests. It stretches more than 20 miles across country from Burgaw to the Hampstead area.
“The Shelter” is a destination for hunters, birdwatchers, primitive campers, horse- and off-road bicycle riders, and hikers.