New Bern, N.C. — Triangle residents might be able to catch a whiff of a uncontained wildfire in the Croatan National Forest.
The blaze began Thursday from a controlled burn by the U.S. Forest Service Thursday near the center of the national forest, grew to 2,800 acres by Sunday afternoon and ballooned to 8,000 acres by mid-morning Monday.
Forestry officials said the blaze has not injured anyone or threatened any property in the national forest south of New Bern and stretching nearly to the Bogue Banks.
WRAL viewer Ronald Carr said saw the fire across the Bogue Sound from Emerald Isle this weekend.
"The town of Cedar Point was saturated with smoke and ash," Carr wrote in an email. "The smoke also made for an unusual and beautiful sunset."
Other WRAL viewers said they could sometimes detect what smelled like a fire burning as far west as Raleigh.
"Some of the smoke was likely transported this way with east winds Sunday and is still in the area today," WRAL meteorologist Mike Moss said. "There may be some low concentrations through the day over about the eastern half of the viewing area."
The N.C. Division of Air Quality said particle pollution in the Triangle had increased due to the fire but wasn't expected to rise to unhealthy levels.
An air-quality warning, though, was issued for Carteret, Craven, Jones, Onslow and Pamlico counties. People who are sensitive to air pollution – the elderly, children, people who work or exercise outdoors, and those with heart and respiratory conditions – should avoid outdoor activities. Normally healthy people should limit outdoor activities.
The smoke was also expected to reduce visibility along highways 70, 17 and 58 in Carteret, Craven, Jones and Onslow counties.
U.S. Forest Service officials told WNCT News that they were fighting the fire indirectly because mechanized equipment isn't allowed in the wilderness area.
"We don't have any timber in there. We don't have any private land in there. There's no homes in there," said district ranger Pancho Smith. "There's nothing in there that is of an emergency nature."
The fire has spread from the Sheep Ridge Wilderness into the rest of the forest, he said. Firefighters have ignited brush along Catfish Lake Road in to try to create a line of fire that they can control.
"We can hold the fire and the lines we put in place," Smith said. "We burn out from there, so that when the main fire gets there, it won't have any place to go."