State News

Wildfire causes air pollution warning for third day

Posted May 12, 2011

— An air pollution advisory from the coast to the Triangle continued for a third day Thursday as smoke from a coastal wildfire kept drifting across North Carolina.

The advisory extends until 9 p.m. Thursday and includes Wake, Durham, Orange and surrounding counties. Eastern North Carolina counties, including Edgecombe, Nash, Wayne and Wilson, are also covered by the advisory.

A fire that has consumed at least 22,000 acres in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge has blanketed the region with heavy smoke and pollution.

The Code Orange advisory warns that residents could experience unhealthy air quality, and especially sensitive groups should avoid or reduce prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors. Sensitive groups include children and people with heart or respiratory conditions, like asthma.

The risk has reached a Code Red status in many of the counties closest to the fire, including Pitt, Greene, Beaufort, Craven, Dare, Hyde, Jones, Lenoir, Martin, Pamlico, Tyrrell and Martin. The air quality there could be so poor that even healthy people should limit outdoor activities.

The pollution is caused by high number of fine particles in the air, which can impair breathing, penetrate deeply into the lungs and be absorbed into the bloodstream, causing or aggravating heart and lung diseases. 

Firefighters and emergency response officials urged people who see and smell smoke not to call 911 unless they see a fire, a smoke column or wish to report someone burning irresponsibly.

Reports of haze and the smell of smoke drifted in to the WRAL newsroom from as far away as South Hill, Va.


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  • Bring on the 4 Dollar Gas May 12, 2011

    just another day in the viewing area folks. go buy a mask and then you'll be prepared for the summer when it won't be any better around here most likely.

  • lma1973 May 12, 2011

    Yep-folks just dont get it. Putting brime on a fire is like putting a lit match to gasoline. And they put this stuff all over the roads?

  • tobywilliamson58 May 12, 2011

    I agree. Defianalty brime burning. All the leftover from last winter.
    Why is this even news know?

  • warrior5011 May 12, 2011

    The smell is from peat burning not plastic.

    Prevalent winds this time of the year would typically blow the smoke out towards the ocean. We're in a weird pattern right now where winds are coming in from the east. Winds should switch to the south this evening and tomorrow and blow the stuff up to Virginia.

    "Its called burning brime pollution. Thats why it smells like plastic...its that new synthetic brime burning"

    What are you talking about?

  • lma1973 May 12, 2011

    Its called burning brime pollution. Thats why it smells like plastic...its that new synthetic brime burning.

  • drisley May 12, 2011

    I've travelled to this Nat'l Refuge and at the time I went, September as I recall, not one of my party saw an animal. We did, however, see many, many buildings indicating, stay away, keep out and do not enter. Curious why there'd be so many buildings as such on a Nat'l refuge for animals. Can't help but think some intentional burning of things not meant to be burned are.

  • icmfal May 12, 2011

    I cannot tell a difference. Are they sure there is a fire?

  • BurninStick May 12, 2011

    "When did wildfires start smelling like burnt plastic?"

    "I've been wondering the same thing... I've smelled smoke from brush fires and controlled burns before, and this smells completely different. When I first smelled it the other day, I could have sworn someone was burning trash."

    Mike Maze told me he believes part or perhaps all of it is a peat bog that is on fire...that tends to smell differently than if it was just forest burning.

  • jetflyera380 May 12, 2011

    This stinks

  • akatonitots May 12, 2011

    Is the wildfire still burning? I would have thought the recent rain that we got would have quenched that.simplysmurfy

    What rain???? I havent seen any rain. Any in any case the fire is burning so hot we would have to have a flooding rain to even touch it.