State News

Wildfire causes air pollution warning for third day

Posted May 12, 2011 5:46 a.m. EDT

— 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.