Dunn's Mountain brush fire could have been worse

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Steve Huffman

Salisbury Post

A brush fire that got out of control off Dunn’s Mountain Road kept volunteers from several departments busy Tuesday afternoon, but the event wasn’t as serious as it might have been.

A bulldozer belonging to the N.C. Division of Forest Resources was hustled to the site and firefighters also set a backfire that helped contain the blaze.

“It could have been a lot worse,” said Rowan County Forest Ranger Rodney Kreiser. “If they hadn’t gotten on it as quick as they did, the wind could easily have pushed it a lot farther than it did.”

The fire took place in woods behind houses in the 3100 block of Dunn’s Mountain Road. Kreiser said Grant Peeler, the owner of the property, was burning a brush pile when wind pushed the flames into nearby debris. The fire quickly accelerated.

Kreiser said about 3 acres burned. The area had been clear-cut a few years ago, neighbors said, but the fire still found plenty of fuel.

Dusty Agner, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at North Rowan Middle, was returning from school and noticed the smoke when he stepped off his bus. He investigated and discovered the fire behind his house.

Dusty told his mother, who called 911. The call for help went out at 4:05 p.m.

Kreiser thanked Dusty for reporting the fire to his mother and for her quick decision to call 911.

“I’m glad you did,” Kreiser told the boy as they surveyed the scene, which by about 5:30 p.m. was little more than smoldering ashes.

Kreiser said the bulldozer is used to push logs and other debris into the fire, creating a break around its perimeter. That’s the same reason for starting a backfire, he said, to create a burn ring that eventually causes the flames to die.

Kreiser said the coming months are especially bad for brush fires, with more such blazes reported in the early part of the year than any other. He said spring winds and a heavy blanket of leaves can prove dangerous if a spark is added.

Kreiser said that statewide, firefighters are at Readiness Plan 3. He said the plans range from 1 to 7, with the higher numbers the most dangerous, indicative of conditions being especially susceptible to forest fires.

Kreiser said that when levels reach 3, bulldozers are made ready for use. At level 4 and higher, airplanes are available to survey for forest fires.

Kreiser said Rowan County is blessed with a number of excellent fire departments. “That’s a big plus for us,” he said.

Firefighters from Union and Liberty fire departments responded to Tuesday’s blaze.

Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or shuffman @salisburypost.com.