Fire begins after discarded cigarette

By Kayloni Wyatt

UNCP all-American pitcher Matt McGovern
Photo Courtesy of Ashley Pryer
A lit cigarette caused a fire in front of Lumbee Hall Feb. 28. Campus Police and Pembroke firefighters extinguished the fire within minutes. The dry weather and the high winds contributed to the fire spreading.

The field in front of Lumbee Hall caught fire Feb. 28 around 2 p.m. Campus police and local firefighters were on the scene to extinguish the fire. 

According to campus police reports, the fire was started by a cigarette that was disposed of improperly. 

Winds blowing up to 60 mph and the warm weather on Feb. 28 were prime reasons the fire spread so fast, according to a March 2 email from campus police Detective Edward Locklear. 

"Due to the extremely dry conditions, students, faculty and staff are asked to please use smoking stations located throughout the campus community and to also take the time to ensure cigarettes are extinguished before discarding them." 

"Especially with the high probability of starting a grass fire or dropping it in pine straws, the dry weather can start a brush fire," Charles Britt, Robeson County fire marshal, said. 

Locklear reported that there have been several small fires on campus believed to have been caused by cigarettes being disposed while still lit. 

Campus police extinguished two separate small fires on campus. A small brush fire was reported in front of Old Main Feb. 28. An officer responded to the call and extinguished the fire. Another small fire was reported Feb. 23 at the front entrance of Pine Hall. An officer also extinguished that fire. 

UNCP student Ashley Pryer was on her way to give a tour for perspective students, when she witnessed the fire in front of Lumbee Hall. 

"When I was turning in, I noticed smoke. But it was just a little bit from what I saw when I drove closer, so I realized it had to have started from a cigarette. Well, with the wind blowing the way it was, it must have caught the ashes and hit the grass and as soon as that happened, the lawn just caught in flames," she said. 

"The first person I thought to call was Kristen Sharpe, an admissions counselor because I was about to see her and I told her what was happening and to call the police. I was in shock when I saw it because the flames and the wind were dancing together and having their own little unstoppable party," Pryer said. 

With the strong winds and dried out land, Robeson County has been experiencing numerous wildfires. 

"We were very lucky," Chancellor Kyle Carter told the Faculty Senate at their March 2 meeting. "The winds were really whipping up." He urged everyone to use caution. "We're not out of the woods, yet, with fire danger and high winds." 

Robeson County did not have a burning ban, like most of the surrounding counties. Burning yard waste has also been a factor of the wildfires, according to The Robesonian. 

The Fayetteville Observer reported that a fire, which began Feb. 21, burned approximately 1,000 acres of land in Bladen County. There were no injuries or property damage during that fire. 

"Anything smokey should be discarded in a proper manner," Britt said.