State News

Smoke from wildfire again clouds coastal skies

The state Division of Air Quality forecast unhealthy conditions for Tyrrell, Dare, Hyde, Pasquotank, Camden and Currituck counties.

Posted Updated

RALEIGH, N.C. — Smoke from wildfires burning at Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge and the Dismal Swamp is forecast to drift downwind this weekend.

The state Division of Air Quality said Thursday that residents of Tyrrell, Dare, Hyde, Pasquotank, Camden and Currituck counties could experience Code Red or Purple conditions. The forecast means that particle pollution increases the risk of breathing problems, even for generally healthy people.

Code Orange conditions are forecast in Gates, Perquimans and Washington counties. Sensitive groups -- such as the very young or old, and those with heart conditions and respiratory ailments should limit outdoor activity.

Officials battling the fires in eastern North Carolina say it could be months before they get the major rainfall needed to extinguish the blaze.

Fire command center spokesman Dean McAlister said Thursday that forecasters aren't predicting more than 2 inches of rain in and around the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge for either June or July.

But he said a hurricane or tropical storm could change that.

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

The fire has burned roughly 41,000 acres in the sparsely populated area of three eastern counties. It remains 70 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.

Copyright 2022 by and the Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.