Local News

Croatan wildfire exceeds 20,000 acres; air quality suffers

Posted June 19, 2012

— U.S. Forest Service firefighters hope to soon contain a coastal wildfire that has grown to more than 20,000 acres in just three days.

The fire in the center of the 160,000-acre Croatan National Forest spread from 10,800 acres Monday night to nearly 21,250 by late Tuesday morning. It started as a prescribed burn by the Forest Service last Thursday but got out of control.

U.S. Forest Service spokesman Donald Simon said that firefighters had built a containment line around the fire that should keep it from spreading more. He said firefighters hope to knock back the flames and have the blaze under control soon.

The Croatan National Forest stretches from south of New Bern nearly to the Bogue Banks.

Forestry officials said that no one's life or private property is in danger from the fire

District ranger Pancho Smith said that crews aren't tackling the large, hot flames directly. "I don't see any sense in putting our firefighters in any danger by putting them directly on the fire line," Smith said.

Raw: Fire burns in Croatan National Forest Raw: Fire burns in Croatan National Forest

Crews were using three helicopters to drop water on hot spots, ignite parts of the forest for the controlled burn and to monitor the situation. About 75 firefighters, 12 fire engines and eight tractor plows are also involved in the effort.

Air quality compromised

Thick smoke blanketed communities between New Bern and Havelock. Visibility was reduced to about a mile, and drivers were cautioned to use headlights at all times.

The fire has sent its odor as far west as Raleigh and as far north as Tarboro. 7-Day Forecast 'Right on cue,' temps in the 90s arrive in Triangle

The N.C. Division of Air Quality said that particle pollution in the Triangle had increased but wasn't expected to rise to unhealthy levels. Winds were expected to shift to the north Tuesday, which could mean the stench of smoke moves out of the Triangle.

Air quality officials expected Code Red conditions in Craven, Jones and Pamlico counties Tuesday and warned even healthy people to avoid extended, strenuous outdoor activity.

The state issued additional air-quality warnings for Martin, Pitt, Washington, Beaufort and Hyde counties through Tuesday evening. 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.

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  • wasone Jun 19, 7:39 p.m.

    Wildlife and vegitation will increase after the fire. New growth of plants and trees and tender food the wildlife.

  • pm2 Jun 19, 7:32 p.m.

    suffering by people AND wildlife destroyed...

  • pm2 Jun 19, 7:30 p.m.

    Not to mention the tourist $ we try so hard to get....

  • salt of the earth Jun 19, 6:53 p.m.

    The fools working for the US Forest Service who started this should lose their jobs. If I made a mistake of this magnitude, I would certainly lose mine. This fire will cost tens of millions and will cause a lot of people to needlessly suffer for a few days or even a week or more until they put it out.

    Who was the meathead who thought lighting a controlled burn with the weather conditions at the time was a good idea? Unseasonably low humidity, gusty winds and no rain in forecast for over a week.

    Gee, sounds like ideal conditions for a raging, uncontrollable forest fire. But what do I know, I don't work for the Forest Service.

  • wasone Jun 19, 6:37 p.m.

    ytb781pearl, Give them a break! So they must plan a control burn around your vacation? Do you really think they planned this fire to get out of control? Ever heard of a "unexpected sea breeze,or a wind shift,or maybe a worn out piece of equiptment breaks down. I know a gentlemen who worked with the NCFS and never had an Easter Sunday off to spend with his family in 10 years because he was out Fighting fires that someone else started...Did he complain ...no it was his job.The NCFS is doing the same fine job that they have always done but now with less employees and less money. Outside consultants who know nothing about fire control recommend that they sell almost all their aviation wing (for 10 cents on the dollar)but they will continue to work 24/7 until they put the fire out or it rains. Sorry about your vacation,but that[s life.

  • scarlett2 Jun 19, 6:27 p.m.

    For those who say these burns are necessary and it is "protecting" our homes from future mother nature wildfires...I have lived near the woods all of my life and there have been no prescribed burns done here by the forest service, nor has there ever been a natural wildfire here. These prescribed burns are a man-made idea and they do not take into account all of the untold suffering that is done to the people in the area. Many cannot afford to leave the area until the air quality improves.
    How much is this uncontrolled wildlife now costing us taxpayers??

  • Lena Jun 19, 6:12 p.m.

    Last year's fire/smoke was bad enough, and now there's another one...

    Gotta wonder whether the State could review their procedures for starting fires. Is there better time of year? - like NOT summer tourist season. Could Gov avoid starting when high winds are predicted in short term. How about setting fires when there's high probability of tropical storm/rain in a week or so (just in case).

  • fireman24057 Jun 19, 6:04 p.m.

    rolled burns prior to this fire occurring thus resulting in the destrution of 76 homes and damage to 97 others. Finally please have some respect for the people who do this job for a living and dont degrade them. The starting pay for one of these jobs with NC is around 28k a year. These are highly trained individuals dedicated to protecting the forest land of NC as well as your family and property from a catastrophic wildfire. I fully support the NC forest service for all they do, Great job guys!

  • fireman24057 Jun 19, 5:58 p.m.

    I would like to address all on here who want to talk bad about the NC forest service. I am a firefighter and have a higher education in just this subject, forest management, so I do know a few things about this situation. For all who want to fire the forest service personnel I encourage you to look around your own houses and see just how close to the woods and forest you live. In most counties in NC the forest service is the primary protection for your homes against wildfires. True your local fire dept may be the first ones to arrive but I have yet to see a fire dept in this state who has the heavy equipment ( i.e. tractor plow units) to completely extinguish these fires. Also for all who think that fire in the forest is not natural
    I have to disagree. This is one of the best managment tools available to prevent even larger wildfires from occurring. We should all take a look at the Highway 31 fire in Myrtle Beach back in 2009. The forest lands around this area had no preventative cont

  • lmbl Jun 19, 5:43 p.m.

    Complain to Carteret County Commissioners. They approved this burn without asking a single question about wind, drought, etc. Pancho Smith is not a resident of North Carolina. He will leave the state after another fire burns out of control.

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