Wilkes County wildfire ruled arson, second wildfire considered suspicious

WILKES COUNTY, N.C. -- Two wildfires, started about a half hour apart in Wilkes County on Sunday, are being treated as suspicious, with one of them officially ruled as arson.

“If it had been during our regular fire seasons, then it could have been a lot worse,” Wilkes County Forester Nathan Gatlin said.

The first fire broke out on Summit Road, with volunteer firefighters reporting evidence that the fire had been set, resulting in the arson ruling, Gatlin said.

“If it was just something simple, like a cigarette or a spark, it probably would not have taken off that quickly,” he added. “They were able to really get it going, which meant that it was probably somebody trying to get it done.”

Firefighters were able to contain the fire to less than 2.5 acres by using the road, a stream and by cutting their own fire lines. However, if the fire had been set during the regular fire season, the fuel on the forest floor would have been drier and more susceptible.

“It could have really been a bad, bad deal,” Gatlin said.

About 30 minutes after the Summit Road fire broke out, firefighters were alerted to another wildfire, about 30 minutes away.

“To have two fires like that, so close together, it really indicated that there was something suspicious,” Gatlin said.

The location of the second fire is approximately 20 minutes from where the Horton Fire burned through more than 1,400 acres in November of last year.

“Maybe it’s something they think is not going to do a whole lot, but they could become very unlucky and it do a whole lot of damage and maybe even kill someone,” Gatlin said, of those intentionally setting fires.

The Summit Road fire marks the eighth wildfire believed to be arson in Wilkes County over the last six years.