‘Illegal burn’ sparked blaze that sent firefighters to hospital

And sparked important safety message from officials

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The Harnett County Fire Marshal’s Office is reminding residents of the dangers sparked by burning materials near a home and the laws that prohibit it after a destructive fire ­— caused by an illegal burn — sent three firefighters to the hospital Wednesday.

The Erwin Fire Department and Rescue Squad was notified of a large outside fire at 1045 Antioch Church Road at 3:35 p.m. Wednesday. Six minutes later, Erwin’s Assistant Fire Chief John Wilkins upgraded the incident to a “fully-involved residential structure fire,” according to a release from Fire Marshal Rodney Daniels on Thursday.

Wilkins said the rear of the home was fully-involved when they arrived on the scene along with the Dunn Fire Department. It didn’t take long for the fire to spread.

Firefighters were attacking the blaze around 4 p.m. when a roof collapsed pushing three of them back. They were not under the roof when it caved in.

“You never know” what’s going to happen, Wilkins said. “It only takes a second.”

The three were sent to the hospital as a precaution, but were expected to be OK, Wilkins said after the fire was knocked down. “We made them get checked out for safety reasons, but they’re fine. The chief’s with them now.”

Daniels said they were released from the hospital on the same day. The firefighters have not been identified.

The home was unoccupied at the time of the blaze, but it was undergoing renovations.

Men, who were working on the Antioch Church Road home Wednesday afternoon, “admitted to burning some construction materials and it ignited the house,” Daniels said at the scene.

But there are laws that prohibit that type of open burning.

“The fire originated from an illegal burn,” he said. “They were burning illegal construction materials.”

The dangers in burning materials close to a home, he added, were evident Wednesday when the fire got “out of hand.”

“It happens all the time,” he said.

“It’s illegal to burn: garbage, paper and cardboard; tires and other rubber products; building materials, including lumber, wire, plastics and synthetic materials; asphalt shingles and heavy oils; and paints, household and agricultural chemicals,” Daniels noted in his release Thursday. “You can be fined up to $25,000 for illegal open burning in North Carolina... Smoke from open burning can cause serious health problems and pollute the air. That’s why the state regulates open burning. Only leaves, branches or other plant growth can be burned.”

The house was deemed a total loss.

Traffic was rerouted around the scene at the Moose Lodge on Antioch Church Road as firefighters worked to extinguish the flames around 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Law enforcement and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, which also has regulations against burning certain materials, will determine whether or not any charges are filed in the case, Daniels said.

Coats-Grove Fire Department and Harnett County Emergency Services also assisted Erwin and Dunn Emergency Services at the scene.

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