Dry conditions are expected to continue throughout the weekend. The N.C. Forest Service and Bladen County Fire Marshall's Office have declared the county to be at fire readiness level five until further notice.
Level five alert means conditions are ripe for wildlands fires. Dry weather and high winds can combine to quickly send small grass and trash fires out of control. Under a level five alert, multiple stations are called out to even minor fires.
Six people were burned out of their home in East Arcadia, Forest Service aircraft were called in to fight a woodsfire, and a storage barn fire nearly destroyed a home near White Oak.
The century-old home of six people burned Tuesday afternoon in a fire that drew volunteers and equipment from six fire stations.
Stacy Dixon and one of her children narrowly escaped injury when a malfunctioning water heater apparently caused the fire. Her other two children, brother, Almanzo Brown, and mother, Marguerite Butts, weren't home at the time.
Firefighters from Station 54 East Arcada, Station 56 Kelly, Station 59 Lisbon, Station 63 Carver's Creek, Buckhead and Acme Delco Riegelwood in Columbus County responded to the blaze. Lavonia Lewis of Station 54 said Bladen County EMS and ADR Rescue were also standing by.
Bladen County Fire Marshall Mitchell Byrd said the home was a total loss. It was moved down a dirt road behind 2157 East Arcadia Road about ten years ago, he said. The house was originally built near Lock and Dam No. 1 around 1900.
A loss estimate on the home was not available, Byrd said.
The family is staying with relatives in the East Arcadia area, and have been referred to the American Red Cross and Salvation Army for other assistance, Byrd said.
The fire occurred around 2:30 p.m.
Earlier that day, woods fires kept firefighters busy across the county.
A storage building on Fletcher Johnson Drive, near White Oak, came within inches of burning a mobile home and threatening two nearby homes. Station 61 White Oak, Station 55 Elizabethtown, and Station 57 Tar Heel responded.
The barn was a total loss, but a dog chained nearby escaped injury. Dry grass helped the fire spread close enough to one mobile home to damage the siding.
The name of the owner of the barn and mobile home was not available at press time. The fire occurred around 11:30 a.m.
A short time later, a wildlands fire was accidentally caused by a passing motorist on Sweet Home Church Road near Elizabethtown. The road was closed for about an hour while firefighters knocked down the blaze at the edge of the Jones Lake State Forest.
Responding to that fire were the N.C. Forest Service, Station 58 White Lake, Station 55 Elizabethtown, Station 64 Hickory Grove and Station 61 White Oak. A Forest Service airplane also dropped water and foam on the fire.
Firefighters across the county responded to around one fire every two hours during daylight this week.
In excess of forty woods and brushfires have been reported in Bladen since Jan. 1.