Red flag warning marks Pine Knoll anniversary

February 20, 2008 4:50:15 PM PST
It's been nearly a year since one of the largest fires in Raleigh's history, and today's windy conditions are bringing back memories of the fire at the Pine Knoll Townhomes.

That fire broke out mid-afternoon on February 22, 2007. Within minutes, flames jumped rapidly from roof to roof, consuming everything in their wake, destroying dozens of townhomes.

Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt.

On this "Red Flag" day with high winds, low humidity and bone-dry conditions, Eyewitness News returned to the scene. We found the community has been rebuilt; it almost appears nothing ever happened.

"If i hadn't heard about it, I wouldn't give any thought to anything happened here," said resident Wayne Stephens, who moved in after the fire.

Wake County's Fire Marshal says the Pine Knoll fire should serve as an example to others of just how quickly fire can spread when certain conditions are in place, much like what we're seeing this Wednesday.

"Those three conditions of drought, low humidity and high winds, kind of set the stage for a perfect storm," said Fire Marshal Ray Echevarria.

He says the advice on red flag days like these is simple.

Don't burn.

And don't toss aside burning cigarettes -- the presumed caused of the Pine Knoll fire.

"People don't realize just how quickly a fire can spread," Echevarria said. "We're talking about fires spreading in seconds, not minutes."

Some elements of the building code have been changed as a result of the fire at Pine Knoll Townes.

The kinds of building products that can be used for eaves and soffits, located underneath the gutters on townhomes have been changed.

Only flame-retardent materials can be used on those to help prevent the rapid spread of flames.