Fire near Cumberland Co. jumps barrier

WHITE OAK, NC

Fire officials said the 3,200-acre blaze jumped from the natural barriers keeping it from spreading Sunday and is now nearing 10 houses.

p>Barbara Bullard says she watched the wind turn directions.

"When the wind turned this direction, yeah, we sat outside and watched," she said. "Figure we'd have the sprinkler hoses ready if we needed them."

Bullard has lived in her Cumberland County home for 32 years and says she hasn't seen a fire like the one that is burning since 1981.

"Until yesterday, the house was fairly secure, but overnight last night with the smoke so bad, it did get into the house," Bullard added.

Fire crews from across the county are focused on the Simmons Road fire. It has burned for two weeks on the Cumberland/Bladen line, taking out a cabin, two out buildings, a water truck and an ATV.

Firefighters are using helicopters to drop water and are building fire lines to try to protect the homes.

Officials say the soil around the fire has so much organic content that it's making the fight even harder.

"Normally with mineral soil like what we're standing on now - you plow a fire line around it - separate the fuel. When the fire burns up to the edge of your line, it goes out. When the soil itself burns - the fire line itself is not gonna hold. It'll slow it down - but it'll eventually eat through that line, Chris Meggs, with the N.C. Forest Service explained.

"The fire is gonna smoke and smolder for weeks. With these organic soils burning, it's gonna burn until it either reaches mineral soil underneath, or it hits the water level," he continued.

Officials said Monday the fire is now only 40 percent contained.

It started from a lightning strike June 20.

The wildfire is causing poor air quality in eastern North Carolina along Interstate 95.

"Until yesterday, the house was fairly secure. But overnight last night, with the smoke so bad, it did get into the house. So might as well be outside as opposed to inside," Bullard said.

Currently, nearly a dozen homes are evacuated deep in the woods. More evacuations may come but residents may not want to go.

"My husband said they'd have to arrest him first," Bullard said.

Fire crews hope for a little reprieve.

At last check, the fire has burned 3,200 acres and is 40 percent contained.

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