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Posted on: May 12, 2023

New Hanover County Fire Rescue continues monitoring mulch fire off North Kerr Avenue

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC – New Hanover County Fire Rescue is continuing to work in conjunction with the North Carolina Forest Service and the property owner to address an ongoing fire in the 2800 block of North Kerr Avenue.

The fire, which sparked on April 30 as the result of a lightning strike to large pile of mulching material, is currently contained and being closely monitored to ensure public safety in the surrounding area. Measures to extinguish the fire and limit its impact have been in progress for some time, however because of its size and the material involved, the fire is expected to take additional time before it will be completely burned out.

“What people generally see when our Fire Rescue team responds to a fire is the deployment of water to put the blaze out. Unfortunately, that would only lengthen the timeline for how long this fire would be active if that process were used because the material that is burning contains organic matter and the heat from the fire is deep inside the pile,” said Deputy Fire Chief Frank Meyer. “We are grateful for the collaboration with the Forest Service and steadfast response of the property owner to work with our Fire Rescue team to develop a plan that addresses the fire as quickly as possible while also prioritizing safety.”

Provided below is an overview of the situation, the fire response, and safety updates that residents should be aware of:

  • Originally, the mulch material pile itself covered approximately the size of a football field and stood more than 20 feet tall. While the burning has reduced its size considerably, the length and depth of the pile remains significant.
  • Because the material that is burning contains organic matter and the heat from the fire is deep inside the pile, Fire Rescue and the Forest Service determined that using water as an extinguishing agent would not be practical. Water would reduce surface temperature initially but would also form a hardened layer of ash that would trap the heat underneath. As material burned away internally, the hardened layer would eventually collapse, introducing oxygen to the heat and re-sparking the fire. The amount of water needed to properly put the fire out was estimated to be more than 100,000 gallons.
  • To expedite the burn, the property owners are using heavy machinery during the day to stoke the fire and burn the materials at a quicker rate. Additionally, equipment has also been used to dig a barrier between the edge of the fire and the rest of the property, helping contain the burn to a specified area.
  • Dump trucks with dirt are being periodically brought to the site by the property owners as well, to help contain and extinguish the flame as needed. No additional material is being added to the fire that would continue or prolong the burn.
  • The Forest Service has installed an overhead sprinkler system along the perimeter of the property. This system is not intended to put out the fire, but to control potential embers from the fire that might drift into the surrounding area.
  • Representatives from New Hanover County Fire Rescue and the North Carolina Forest Service are onsite to monitor the efforts taking place to control and extinguish the burn.
  • Residents and businesses in the surrounding area are encouraged to keep their doors and windows closed as the fire is expected to produce periodic smoky conditions. Smoke will be more prevalent during the day as work to burn the mulch pile will be ongoing. If you have problems breathing in smoky situations, a face covering is also encouraged. Staff from the Division of Air Quality with the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality have been on site and tested the air, finding no immediate threat to public health aside from irritating existing breathing conditions.  

Residents who need more information about this incident or have further concerns can reach out to New Hanover County Fire Rescue at 910-798-7420.

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