High winds and low humidity were major contributors to the rapid spread of a fire in a single family home on Friday afternoon. The Morganton Department of Public Safety was dispatched to a structure fire at the corner of Vinearden Road and Jessie Drive on March 22, 2019 at 3:48 pm. Calls began coming in to the Burke County Communications Center at 3:47 pm and fire units were dispatched less than a minute later. The first units arrived on scene within two minutes to find heavy black smoke and flames pushing out of every door and window on the front of the structure. The smoke column could be seen from downtown according to several reports. Public Safety police and fire units combined to extinguish the fully involved structure. The fire had engulfed the rear of the house and was being pushed by the wind out the front and into the surrounding yard and wood line. A brush fire that was burning toward a neighboring house was quickly extinguished while crews put water from hoses on the fire in the house. Two nearby homes that were threatened by the fire were spared from damage by the quick actions of the firefighters.
Initial reports were that the house may be occupied, but the four occupants of the home were quickly found to be out of town and accounted for. The house was a total loss but no loss of human life or injury occurred. The cause of the fire is currently under investigation by the Morganton Public Safety Criminal Investigation Division as standard procedure but no indication of wrong-doing has been discovered or reported. Morganton Public Safety was assisted by Burke County EMS with an ambulance crew on hand to care for any injured victims or firefighters, but there were none. No mutual aid fire departments were called due to another large fire in the Triple Community Fire District requiring the aid of multiple departments and the NC Forest Service. Off duty officers from Morganton Public Safety were called in to assist with handling other police and fire calls within the city. Public Safety personnel rapidly extinguished another small outside fire near Burger King at the Plaza during this time as well, highlighting the hazardous conditions present Friday afternoon.
With the coming of spring, the warming temperatures, low humidity and unstable weather conditions mark the beginning of wildfire and storm seasons. Strong, gusty winds will occur frequently and conditions can change very rapidly. The men and women of Morganton Public Safety want to encourage everyone enjoy the nice weather safely and to practice fire safety during camping and cook-outs. Plan for changing weather and be prepared to take shelter quickly in case of storms, including those that can generate lightning, tornadoes, falling trees and other hazardous conditions.