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Rain comes to part of wildfire area, but not enough to end stubborn blaze

Rain fell on part of the fire area Sunday, but it will likely take a major rain event to significantly affect the total wildfire in an eastern North Carolina wildlife refuge.

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COLUMBIA, N.C. — Rain fell on a massive wildfire in eastern North Carolina on Sunday, and it provided help to firefighters in at least one part of the area, officials said.
The state Division of Forest Resources said an automated weather station recorded 1.8 inches of rain falling on the northern section of the 41,000-acre fire, though it missed other areas.

Firefighters battling the blaze in and around the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge said rain Saturday reduced fire activity and provided relief from rising humidity levels.

However, it will likely take a major rain event, such as a tropical storm, to dampen the fire overall, officials said.

Short of such a storm, forecasters are not predicting more than 2 inches of rain at the wildlife refuge for either June or July, fire command center spokesman Dean McAlister said on Thursday.

Firefighters continued to spray water on hotspots in the smoldering peat soil. Crews have drained 3 of the 5 inches allowed from Lake Phelps to douse the burning soil.

Light southwest winds were likely to move smoke from southern Tyrrell, northern Hyde and southern Washington counties onto the Outer Banks on Sunday. The National Weather Service said the main cities of Plymouth and Columbia and the Outer Banks communities of Kitty Hawk, Nags Head and Southern Shores could be affected.

Visibility could drop to less than a mile, creating hazardous driving conditions on U.S. Highway 64 and N.C. Highway 94.

The blaze has burned roughly 41,000 acres, or 64 square miles, and was about 75 percent contained.

Map: Progress of the fire
In the map below, the area of the fire is designated in red. Pushpins signal air quality forecasts.

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.
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