State News

Firefighters make 'some progress' in wildfire battle

Posted July 5, 2008 5:43 p.m. EDT

— Firefighters got help from light spotty showers on Saturday as they battled a large wildfire in eastern North Carolina.

The wildfire has burned 41,534 acres in and around the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. Peat soil continues to burn down to an average depth of three feet, officials said.

Saturday’s higher relative humidity and cloud cover helped workers fight the blaze.

“We’ve had a good day and made some progress,” Operations Chief John Nichols said.

Officials said the fire will continue to spew smoke through the weekend, creating unhealthy air in places around Elizabeth City. Some unhealthy air could spread as far as Kill Devil Hills.

The state Division of Air Quality encourages people to limit prolonged outdoors activity. People who are sensitive to air pollution should avoid all physical activity outdoors in areas most affected by the smoke.

The wildfire has been burning for more than a month. Although mostly contained, firefighters say it could burn for much longer in the organic matter of the refuge.

 Unhealthy air

In the map below, the red are indicates the fire zone, where more than 40,000 acres continue to burn deep into the ground. Red markers denote areas of worst air pollution. Yellow markers indicate areas where air is dangerous to sensitive groups – the very young or very old, and those with chronic lung diseases.

Protect yourself from wildfire smoke

  • Reduce time outdoors. This can provide protection, especially in a tightly closed house where the air-conditioner can re-circulate air instead of bringing in outdoor air.
  • Reduce time engaged in outdoor physical activity. This can be effective in lowering the dose of inhaled air pollutants.
  • Reduce other sources of indoor air pollution that can emit the same pollutants found in wildfire smoke. Indoor sources such as burning cigarettes, gas, propane and wood-burning stoves and furnaces, and activities such as cooking, burning candles and incense and vacuuming can greatly increase the particle levels in a home and should be avoided when wildfire smoke is present.

(Source: National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion)

The state Division of Public Health lists the symptoms of smoke exposure as:

  •   coughing
  •   scratchy throat
  •   shortness of breath
  •   irritated sinuses
  •   chest pain
  •   headaches
  •   stinging eyes
  •   runny nose

You can help

North Carolina Baptist Men Disaster Relief is providing showers, laundry services and food to firefighters in Hyde County. To donate to the relief effort, send a check to: NCBM Disaster Relief, P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512.