State News

NC wildfires burn tens of thousands of acres

Posted June 24, 2011 7:23 a.m. EDT
Updated June 24, 2011 10:12 p.m. EDT

— Wildfires burning in several eastern and coastal North Carolina counties have consumed more than 70,000 acres.

The fire burning in the Alligator River Nature Preserve in Dare County has covered 70 square miles, or nearly 50,000 acres.

North Carolina Forest Service officials reported Friday the fire is emitting thick smoke as peat in the containment area continues to burn more than a foot into the ground.

A blaze in the Holly Shelter Game Land area of Pender County has burned more than 21,000 acres in the past week and is only 10 percent contained.

A separate fire near Atkinson in western Pender County jumped containment lines Thursday because of the high winds. It's burned 60 acres so far.

A blaze that started in the Live Oak community in Bladen County has scorched more than 1,300 acres and has destroyed three homes and 10 outbuildings. The fire, which has forced 100 people from their homes, is about 25 percent contained, and authorities said they expect efforts to surround the fire will add about 2,500 acres to its size.

The state Division of Public Health said Friday there was a spike in emergency room visits due to respiratory ailments on June 19 – the day lightning sparked the Holly Shelter Game Land fire. The increase was noticed in Beaufort, Bertie, Carteret, Dare, New Hanover and Pender counties, officials said.

The respiratory complaints in in emergency rooms have since returned to normal levels, but officials warned people to take precautions when spending time outdoors.

Forest Service spokesman Bruce MacDonald said scattered thunderstorms have helped extinguish some flames, but accompanying higher winds have pushed fires in unexpected directions.