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Wildfire started by gunfire

By Michael Hennessey
Published On: Mar 16 2013 05:47:56 PM CDT
MAPLE HILL, ONSLOW COUNTY- -

Authorities say the fire that destroyed over 450 acres in southwestern Onslow County was started by gunfire.

The site where the bullets were found and the movement of the fire led investigators to determine that the bullets themselves, coupled with low humidity caused the fire to erupt.

The number of bullets found was quite high and varied. Ricky Atkins, Onslow County Forest Ranger, said they collected four garbage bags worth of bullets from the site. He also mentioned two types of bullets that were found. One, known as a tracer bullet, is designed to ignite upon impact to help the shooter determine where he or she is shooting.

Another variety found was 50-caliber bullets, which are used in some of the highest power firearms. "Some of the weapons is, let’s just say very, very, very high caliber stuff like military helicopters would use,” said Atkins.

They’re unsure as to if it was the heat of the bullets used, or the tracer bullets igniting, which sparked the blaze.

Residents in the Brians Woods Road area of Maple Hill were evacuated from their homes during the blaze. Some of them have seen three fires come dangerously close to their homes since moving in.

They’re no strangers to gunfire either. Sherry Hawken said, “Sometimes we wake up two in the morning, the shooting is right by the house. We had a bullet bounce off the side.”

When told it was gunfire which sparked the blaze Andrea Rowe said, “You know be respectful of other people. This is our home and you're risking our homes and our lives and our children's lives." Hawken added, “Common sense. Think about your neighbors because we're all in this together. The fire could destroy everything."

Adirondack Timber, a private company, had about 60 acres burned in the fire. Their losses are currently estimated at 25 to 30 thousand dollars.

The incident is still under investigation.