State News

Dare County fire 'nowhere near out'

Posted June 21, 2011
Updated June 22, 2011

— Officials from the North Carolina Division of Forest Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Dare County on Tuesday discussed the tactics they are using to battle a wildfire that's burned since early May, causing many days of unhealthy air in some of the state's biggest tourist areas. 

The Pains Bay fire, ignited May 5 in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in Dare and Hyde counties, has sent haze as far west as the center of the state. It has burned through more than 70 square miles, according to the Division of Forest Resources.

Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge Dare County residents get fire update

The fire is 95 percent contained, but it is "nowhere near out," a spokesman told those who attended Tuesday's meeting in Rodanthe. 

More than 200 people and 15 vehicles are committed to fighting the fire. Firefighters are moving about 400 million gallons of water per day to saturate the ground in the wildlife refuge, but the worst part of the fire is deep in the woods, in hills of peat and soil, making flooding more difficult.

"We're encouraged by the success of getting water on the perimeter of the fire," said Roger Miller, of the Division of Forest Resources. But he estimated the area could use about 6 inches of steady rain to completely extinguish the fire.

"I'm not going to hope for a hurricane, but a tropical depression sure would be nice," he said.

At Rodanthe Campground and Water Sports, manager Mike Bigney said he's used to tourists calling to ask about hurricanes. This year, they have asked about the air quality. Some have even canceled.

"They never call back after I tell them it could be bad," he said.

And some days it is bad. On Tuesday, most of Dare County was under a Code Purple air quality warning – the highest level described by the state and one characterized by hazy, stagnant air. Residents and visitors are advised to avoid exertion outdoors during these conditions.

The North Carolina Division of Air Quality is monitoring the air quality daily. While the smoke in the air comes and goes depending on rainfall, wind patterns and other factors, authorities said it will be a long time before the skies are completely clear.

When the wind blows to the east, the sunset in the west is lit in spectacular color, refracted by the particles in the air.

Sunset in the Outer Banks Wildfire colors sunset at Outer Banks

Meetings were scheduled for Wednesday at the following places and times:

  • 10 a.m. at the Kern P. Pitts Center in Southern Shores
  • 2 p.m. at the Kill Devil Hills Town Hall
  • 6 p.m. at the Manns Harbor Fire Department

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  • WRALwontdeletemyaccount Jun 21, 2011

    "burning brime "

    I would have liked to have seen that.

  • PackManSJP Jun 21, 2011

    Heat n Drought n Fire n Smoke, I was on the OBX this weekend. Tourism is not suffering. I do not agree with Governor Perdue and many of her policies, but the state's response to this has not been inept. This is a natural disaster. Man connot control it. These firefighters are well-trained and take their jobs seriuosly and show great commitment to it. How inept is the response when thankfully no houses have been lost and no one has been seriuosly injured or killed. There may be valid reasons for some critiscisms, but they need to be fact-based and not just ad hominem attacks.

  • bnelson1 Jun 21, 2011

    Inept, not doing anything, ect. ect. I cannot believe people can make so many derogatory remarks. It takes a lot of guts,and traing to fight fires. If you think you are suffering from smoke just think what they are going through with all the equipment they have to wear. I'm sure you wouldn't want to do it, and yes sometimes you have to set controlled back fires to stop the main fire. Ever heard of fighting fire with fire? AAnyway the firefighters are not inept..if anthing they are exhausted...why don't you volunteer...I wish I could but as a retired vol. fireman with copd I can't. The best thing we can all do is pray for an end and give those fireman our full support. Remember, they didn't start the fire. firefighter

  • Bring on the 4 Dollar Gas Jun 21, 2011

    Once again our state proves how inept it is to deal with disaster. "Nowhere near out"? Guess what that means? No tourisim this year and YOU guys will get our bills!

  • carolinarox Jun 21, 2011

    Trust golower posters to drag politics into a forest fire.

  • lma1973 Jun 21, 2011

    Actually the smell is coming from the burning brime that was sprayed on the roads this past winter.

  • John Sawtooth Jun 21, 2011

    @Iworkforaliving - I think the plastic or asphalt smell is from the burning peat the article mentions. Peat eventually becomes coal, it's going to have those same oily-smelling hydrocarbons, as will the pine trees to some extent.

    A burning peat swamp is a heck of a problem. As they said, they need a tropical storm's worth of rain to snuff it out entirely.

  • lma1973 Jun 21, 2011

    Oh yeah-its lightning not "lightening" for the enlightened. ;)

  • lma1973 Jun 21, 2011

    Ummm duh-how many smoke storms have you seen with lightning?

    "Duh, the lightening bolt is a warning for ALL bad weather conditions...and smoke in the air is the atmosphere."

  • VoiceMatters Jun 21, 2011

    "So why is there a lightning bolt symbol beside the alert at the top of the page? The warning is regarding air quality so a lightning bolt symbol is misleading."

    Duh, the lightening bolt is a warning for ALL bad weather conditions...and smoke in the air is the atmosphere.