There was plenty of smoke, but no actual fire – at least not in Raeford early Monday, when smoke from a large controlled burn out in the county caused several false alarms.
Thick smoke blanketed Raeford and surrounding areas overnight Sunday into early Monday. The smoke prompted multiple 911 calls from people concerned that the Burlington Industries manufacturing plant might have caught on fire, Raeford Fire Department Chief Terry Tapp said. The fire siren sounded around 3:45 a.m. and emergency services deployed their crews in response to the calls.
However, while the Burlington plant was visibly venting steam, that was part of its normal operation and the production facility was not on fire. The smoke actually came from Fort Bragg conducting a controlled burn over the weekend on about 650 acres of land in the McCain area, Tapp said.
The conditions were apparently just right for the smoke to spread through town, causing the false alarms.
“It just seemed to lay down on the top of Raeford,” Tapp said. The way the smoke spread had to do with the conditions, such as how heavy the air is at night and a lack of wind that might have otherwise swept away the smoke, the fire chief explained.
Fort Bragg, the North Carolina Forest Service and the Sandhills Prescribed Burn Association (SPBA) commonly set controlled fires on Sandhills lands for forestry management purposes. Fire is a natural part of the sandhill ecosystem, which includes the longleaf pine. The controlled burns are monitored to prevent them from spreading beyond the set boundaries.
The intentionally set controlled burns keep fuel from building up on the forest floor, reducing the risk of damaging, out-of-control wildfires, according to the SPBA. The use of fire for sandhill forestry management encourages natural regeneration of the longleaf pine tree, and other plants that benefit wildlife. The burns also help control pests like ticks and chiggers, and release nutrients that increase soil fertility.
For more information on the controlled burns that often take place in and around Hoke County, visit https://www.sandhillspba.org.