Crews work to contain 9K-acre fire at NC Marine base

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (AP) — Crews managed Friday to start containing a wildfire that has consumed more than 14 square-miles at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune, almost a week after the blaze initially began when Marines were testing weapons on a firing range, officials said.

Col. Daniel Lecce, the base’s commanding officer, said the fire is still active but no longer advancing. Firefighters hope to have the blaze extinguished in the next few days.

“We are very aggressively fighting this fire,” Lecce said.

Lecce said cooler temperatures and higher humidity have helped firefighters get an upper hand. The increased control came just a day after authorities ordered evacuations as the blaze moved toward homes, filling residential areas with thick smoke and belching burned-out embers over the area.

No off-base structures have been damaged and only some minor range buildings on Camp Lejeune have been affected by the fire, Lecce said. Residents who had been evacuated have been allowed to return home. Several schools in Onslow County were closed Friday.

The fire apparently started when Marines were testing weapons on a firing range, said Bill Swartley, a spokesman with the N.C. Division of Forest Services. Officials at Camp Lejeune, which covers about 156,000 in southeastern North Carolina, plan to investigate the cause.

Meanwhile, three Georgia wildfires had burned more than 53 square miles, forcing temporary evacuations Thursday night of more than 100 houses, a nursing home and a prison. In South Carolina, a wildfire that scorched about four square miles along the coast was almost completely contained.

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