Mayor wants pine straw removed

April 1, 2010 4:23:43 AM PDT
Raleigh's mayor says something has to change after two devastating fires left several residents homeless.Fire officials are recommending that the City of Raleigh pass an ordinance that would ban the use of pine straw within 10 feet of any combustible structure. Apex, Chapel Hill and Morrisville have already passed similar bans.

The recommendation excludes single and two family buildings, so Mayor Charles Meeker wants to take it further.

"I think any structure, whether it be a single family home or an apartment-that has a flammable exterior ought to be covered," Meeker said.

The call for action comes after pine straw helped fuel a fire that destroyed and damaged seven homes in the Highland Creek Subdivision. The fire displaced 15 people in the 2800 block of Armadale Lane off of Louisburg Road last week.

It brings back memories for those who survived a similar fire in 2007 where pine straw also played a major role.

Three years ago, a massive fire destroyed more than two dozen homes in Pine Knoll Townes.

"The whole subdivision was probably leveled in 30-45 minutes," Pine Knoll fire victim Dale Michael Caldwell said.

Caldwell says he was curious about the pine straw that surrounded his home.

"It looked awfully dry, but never really gave it much thought," Caldwell said.

That was until he lost everything in the fire.

"The pine straw is so dry and brittle that it just, it takes right off," Caldwell said. "It was a warm day, windy, dry and the grass caught on fire and then hit the pine straw, hit the vinyl siding and then it went up into the house."

Caldwell says he thinks the recommendation is a good idea. He moved back to the subdivision a few months after the fire and says there isn't any pine straw in the area.

"We actually had pine straw when we moved back in, but then they came through and took it out and re-did it all with the mulch," Caldwell said.

The mayor now wants the city council to act on the recommendation at Tuesday's meeting.

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