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Fires elsewhere produce smoky conditions here

Posted June 21, 2011
Updated July 3, 2011

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— Wildfires in eastern and southeastern North Carolina produced hazy conditions and smoky odors across the Triangle Tuesday, authorities said.

A large wildfire was burning over about 500 acres in Bladen County near the Cumberland County line Tuesday evening, forcing the residents of about 30 homes in the Jerome community to evacuate. The fire started Monday, but was nearly extinguished before reigniting Tuesday afternoon. 

Parts of N.C. Highway 53, Johnson Road and Cedar Creek Road in Cumberland County were closed near the fire due to limited visibility from heavy smoke and rescue workers needing space to battle the blaze.

Crews set up a shelter for evacuees at the White Oak Baptist Church on Highway 53.

Fire crews said they hope that heavy rainfall in the area will help extinguish the flames.

In Pender County, a fire likely sparked by lightning late Saturday has burned about 4,800 acres in the Holly Shelter Game Land area. The state Division of Forest Resources and local fire crews were dumping water on the fire from aircraft and using plows to create fire lines to contain the blaze, officials said.

Wildfires rage, create haze in NC Wildfires rage, create haze in NC

"They are going to try to get it contained and a line started around it as soon as possible and try to hold it where it's at, but it may just take an act of Mother Nature – a good rain storm to come in, a good soaking rain" to put it out," said Brian Haines, a spokesman for the Division of Forest Resources.

The fire is in a remote area, and the hot, dry, windy conditions have created conditions where the peat soil can smolder and ignite, officials said.

"You have organic soils, which can burn for a long time. You have ... vegetation that is ready to burn," said Diane Steltz, a spokeswoman for the Division of Forest Resources.

The state closed the game preserve to the public to aid in firefighting efforts and for safety reasons, officials said. Although no homes are threatened by the fire, officials have warned homeowners in Pender County that they might have to evacuate if firefighters are unable to contain the wildfire.

Hazy conditions Fires elsewhere produce smoky conditions here

Fort Bragg officials said a controlled burn on post was completed last Thursday, not Monday as earlier reported. But they said several wildfires have ignited on Fort Bragg in recent days because of dry conditions that might have added to the smoky conditions.

Meanwhile, a wildfire that has burned since May 5 in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in Dare and Hyde counties didn't contribute to the haze in the Triangle, officials said. The fire is 95 percent contained, but it is "nowhere near out," an official said Tuesday.

WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze said winds coming from the southeast carried the smoke into the Triangle early Tuesday but shifted to southerly later in the day. That helped the smoke dissipate a bit in Raleigh and Durham but thicken in Rocky Mount and Goldsboro, he said.

Wildfire rages out of control in game preserve Wildfire rages out of control in game preserve

"The good news (Wednesday) is the winds will shift, becoming more southwesterly, and they will be stronger to blow the smoke out of most of the area. So, the skies will be clearer," Maze said. "Through the evening and overnight, the winds will lessen, and the smoke that's out there now is not going to clear. It's going to stick around."

Area 911 centers were inundated with calls about the smoky conditions, prompting local officials to ask people to report only local fires.

The state Division of Air Quality issued a Code Red alert for the Triangle area and Fayetteville until 8 a.m. Tuesday because of the fine particles in the smoky air. The alert means that people should limit their time and activities outdoors.

Mike Maze Air quality to improve by Wednesday

"You can't control the conditions, so we just try to make the best of it," said Jean Pittard, whose daughter was playing in the Nike Southern 12 tennis tournament in Cary.

Cary canceled outdoor sports programs and activities scheduled for Tuesday evening because of the poor air quality.

The state Department of Transportation urged drivers to slow down and turn on their headlights if they encounter low visibility because of the hazy conditions.

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  • sunneyone Jun 22, 2011

    " "Makes since, it’s not like we have had any forest fires in the last few years."

    Try to keep up. We had 2 massive fires last year alone and we've had at least one big one every year for the last 5. Face it, your inept leader couldn't make a correct call if someone handed her the phone."

    Actually, that person was being sarcastic.......

    The Governor can't control the weather, which includes the lightening strikes that started the coastal fires and the wind that blew the smoke into the Triangle and beyond. By the way, our smoke has been smelled as far north as Maryland.

  • Bring on the 4 Dollar Gas Jun 22, 2011

    "maybe subsiding a bit?" For today.

    There's time to buy masks. If you can find any!

  • djcgriffin Jun 22, 2011

    the smoke was not in the air this morning in raleigh...maybe subsiding a bit?

  • Bring on the 4 Dollar Gas Jun 22, 2011

    WRAL was kind enough last night to be the first to admit this could go on for months. How does that make you feel viewing area? You could be told to stay indoors, wear a mask, run for a breath and just generally live in garbage conditions for months to come. We're going to be Code Orange, Code Red, Code Garbage'd to death all summer long.

    Just in time for tourism to grind to a screeching halt. Maybe when Bev starts smelling it and her eyes start burning she'll do something to actually help put it out. But then again, that is Veto Bev we're talking about, so probably not likely that she has any clue how to help the situation.

  • RB aka Spirit Warrior Woman Jun 21, 2011

    bigal - "One of the fires is burning in a Peat Bog. This makes a noxious smell. Could you imagine living in Ireland or Scotland where they burn peat in fireplaces and to cook with?"

    Nope, but I wonder if one doesn't get use to it.

    In the old days, we got use to the smell of coal fires, and that's not too pleasant smelling either.

  • RB aka Spirit Warrior Woman Jun 21, 2011

    They haven't said a thing about the huge fire burning down in Lillington where they're burning huge piles of brush, clearing the land for the new hospital.

  • bigal02282 Jun 21, 2011

    But why does the smoke smell like burning rubber?

    One of the fires is burning in a Peat Bog. This makes a noxious smell. Could you imagine living in Ireland or Scotland where they burn peat in fireplaces and to cook with?

  • RB aka Spirit Warrior Woman Jun 21, 2011

    cough cough gasp

    Where's the beef?

  • duckquack Jun 21, 2011

    corvair024-people are calling b/c it's soooo smokey they think the fire may be in their area; and fog doesn't smell like smoke.

  • kj90 Jun 21, 2011

    My friend and I drove to Charlotte today, I hope it clears soon.

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