The fire popped up in an area off Old Raeford Road near Lake Rim in the western part of the city.
"Some of the flames got as tall as the trees," said Lawrence Kennedy. "You can still see the smoke in the trees, how bad the smoke was. It covered the whole place. You had to leave up out of here because if you didn't, you would have suffocated."
Fire crews say the choking thick smoke was so thick they had to close one lane of U.S. Highway 401 north to traffic, which snarled rush hour traffic in the area.
The thick wooden area made it tough for firefighters to get to the flames. Fire crews said the weather did not help either. Instead of rain drops, winds from nearby thunderstorms fanned the flames. At one point, the fire jumped across the road burning towards a home there. Fire crews, however, were able to save the home.
Fire crews told three nearby families to evacuate. Kennedy and a relative used a water hose to douse hotspots.
After about two hours of fighting the blaze, the fire was contained but not out. Fire officials will monitor the smoldering forest overnight.
Several fire fighters were treated for heat problems.
There's no word yet on what sparked the fire.