03/25/10 227 W - + 4 - 11 Fire Revives Questions About Pine Straw Safety

That's the headline in today's News & Observer, about Tuesday evening's major fire that destroyed or damaged seven structures, and spread between buildings by burning on the ground. Witnesses recall the fire crawling along the ground, "whipped by wind and fed by grass and pine straw" before igniting the structures.

The article also recalls the Pine Knoll conflagration of three years, that started when a cigarette was discarded in pine straw, and spread rapidly due to factors including strong winds. That fire destroyed two dozen town homes, and prompted city officials to consider recommending limits of combustible materials for landscaping purposes. No action was taken, if memory serves.

Other local municipalities have enacted such restrictions. After discarded cigarette plus pine straw equaled six destroyed town homes in Apex last year, the article adds, the town banned such arithmetic. That is, pine straw usage within ten feet of any structure with a combustible exterior. Two years earlier, a similar ordinance was approved in Chapel Hill. They also experienced a series of pine straw 'n' structure fires.

The article quotes the Raleigh Fire Marshal saying that city officials will reconsider similar limitations. Tuesday night's fire remains under investigation, and the cause is planned for announcement tomorrow. Read the story

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Cowey Lowenstein/News & Observer photo

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