Brian Pace, who sat behind Family Fare with backpacks and camping gear, was to be issued a warning ticket by the North Carolina State Forest Service for setting fire to woodlands, Assistant Halifax County Ranger Adam Greene said.
“I’m so sorry it happened,” Pace, who is homeless and claims to have been on the road for the past 14 years, said. “It was like a fuse. I tried putting it out. It was so dry.”
Pace said he stopped to cook noodles, taking a break from his trek to Vermont where he said he is from. He said this was the first time in his years on the road he ever started a wildfire.
Weldon Fire Chief Rusty Bolt said Pace was about 253 yards in the woods when the fire started.
Weldon assisted in fighting the fire which was within 400 to 500 yards of the nearest residences, about 80 yards from Valley Community Church, 150 yards from Family Fare and another 400 to 500 yards from Halifax Community College.
Greene said the forest service received the call around 2:15 p.m. and by 5 p.m. had it under control. He said it would be monitored throughout the evening and there will be smoke and flames visible from Highway 158 and Country Club Road most likely through Thursday.
As Ranger Chris Strickland plowed a 10-foot wide fire break around the 30 acres a forest service scout plane circled the area.
Weldon police and Halifax County Emergency Management were also at the scene.
Greene said today’s fire is probably the largest rangers have responded to in what has already become a long fire season. “We’ve averaged a fire a day for the past month. We’re expecting conditions to be ripe through the end of April.”
Low humidity and gusty conditions through the remainder of the week will add to the chances for brush fires, Halifax County Ranger Jim Short said.
A small fire was reported at Medoc Mountain State Park today, which was brought under control by Enfield firefighters and the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office, Short said. Gaston firefighters responded to a brush fire on Myrick Street.
Pace said he wasn’t injured during the fire, but did sustain scrapes as he tried to put it out. “I’ve been out to California, I’ve been all over the country. I’ve never been in anything like this.”