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Flames threaten homes
Damage contained to outside
Wyngate fire 1 jd
Chief fire investigator Steve Anderson photographs a charcoal grill where authorities believe the fire started. - photo by Jim Dean
Joey Edgil’s plans to relax in front of the TV and watch NASCAR on Sunday were interrupted when flames erupted behind his Azalea Circle town home.

“I was laying on the couch in front of the patio,” Edgil said. “I didn’t know it was burning until somebody banged on the door.”

No one was injured in the blaze, which started about 5:30 p.m. and threatened 10 town homes in the Wyngate subdivision off Veterans Memorial Boulevard.

The flames were about 2 feet high, Edgil said, and a nearby tree “went up like a Roman candle.”

He said he grabbed his water hose and sprayed flames that were approaching the homes until firefighters arrived.

Forsyth County Fire Capt. Jason Shivers said the fire reached the outside of 10 town homes, burning through small vinyl fences that separated their patios.

Other than minor smoke damage, however, the homes were not affected inside.

Shivers said the blaze was the result of an unattended barbecue grill.

“For some reason, the fire spread from the grill to the grass,” he said.

Shivers said winds, while not particularly strong Sunday, fanned the flames quickly along the dry, dormant Bermuda grass.

Pieces of vinyl siding were removed from some of the homes to prevent further damage. Shivers explained that while technically the siding doesn’t burn, it can melt.

“We were very fortunate that we were able to keep this to the exterior of these homes,” he said.

Shivers said Sunday’s incident reminded him of an April 2004 fire in the Manchester Court subdivision off Hutchinson Road.

Like the Wyngate blaze, it was the result of a barbecue grill left unattended. The grill turned over and the combination of dry grass, pinestraw beds, winds and low humidity fueled the flames.

No one was injured, but five families lost their homes in the Manchester Court fire, which also occurred on a Sunday afternoon.

In that blaze, eight firefighters were treated for physical and heat exhaustion while putting out the blaze.

Shivers said Sunday’s blaze was a warning. Despite a wet winter, the ground can be dry enough for a fire to spread rapidly.

That was the case in what turned out to be a busy weekend for the fire department.

Shivers said firefighters handled 10 brush and eight structure fires on Saturday and Sunday. They also worked three vehicle fires, a kitchen blaze and four illegal burns.

Saturday was a red flag day in Forsyth County, which means all outdoor burning was banned. Burning was allowed Sunday.

Regardless of conditions, Shivers cautioned residents to keep an eye on outdoor flames and grills.

“What begins as a safe, benign, well-intended brush fire, even on a legal day, sometimes will get out of control and our services are needed,” he said.