June 9, 2008
Wildfire on the mainland sends thick smoke over Hatteras Island
By IRENE NOLAN
A wildfire on the eastern North Carolina mainland in Hyde, Tyrrell, and
Washington counties has sent thick smoke and ash over parts of Hatteras
Island off and on for the past several days.
The smoke, driven on southwest winds, has been especially thick north
of Oregon Inlet and in the Rodanthe-Waves-Salvo area. On Monday, it
drifted as far south as Buxton.
far, it has not been a problem in Frisco, Hatteras village, or
Ocracoke, though cars in some of those villages have been coated with
The thick, acrid smoke and the extremely hot temperatures have caused
some islanders and visitors to gasp for a breath when they venture out
of the air-conditioning. It has rained ash and left a heavy haze over
At mid-day on Monday, Tom Murphy of Rodanthe, said the smoke was so
thick at his house that he could not see the strobe light at the top of
a communication tower just 1/4 mile from where he lives. He said
his daughter, who lives in Richmond, Va., had an ash coating on her car.
The fire was ignited by lightning on Saturday, June 1, and quickly
spread last week, burning underground in the decayed vegetation just
under the soil in peat bogs.
As of Sunday evening, the fire has burned more than 32,000 acres.
Gov. Mike Easley has declared a state of emergency in Hyde, Tyrrell,
and Washington counties. Nobody has been injured in the fire, and
no buildings have been destroyed. However, the fire has
threatened about 80 homes and another 50 outbuildings.
The Evans Road fire was active through Sunday evening and has grown
beyond the 32,556 acres reported Sunday night, primarily to the north
and east, according to the inter-agency incident management team
fighting the fire and disseminating information.
Monday morning’s report said that the fire continued to spread
east and northeast into the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. The
fire was 40 percent contained and 23 miles of containment lines needed
to be constructed or improved. Fire activity was expected to be
moderately active Monday. Burnout operations continued on the
southeastern perimeter of the fire to strengthen containment lines.
The fire is projected to spread farther east into the wildlife refuge
over the next 24 hours and its presence will continue to impact refuge
Monday morning’s air quality advisory on the incident Web site noted:
morning the smoke from the Evans Road Fire in Eastern NC is lofting off
to the east-southeast from the fire location and impacting much of
southern Tyrrell County, northern Hyde County, and a large portion of
Dare County. Visibility is currently degraded at the reporting stations
at Manteo and Cape Hatteras along the smoke's path. This is a very good
indication that the smoke is at ground-level versus passing overtop of
these areas. As the day progresses, wind conditions are anticipated to
once again become variable allowing for the smoke to spread out around
the fire as was the case on Sunday. This said, there are more and more
indications that winds will eventually increase from the southwest late
this afternoon and evening. If the southwesterly winds do develop,
expect the smoke plume to begin moving more northeastward across the
Albemarle Sound and toward areas such as Elizabeth City, Kill Devil
Hills, and Duck. Unfortunately, increasing winds will also help fan the
flames and increase the intensity of this massive fire. People in the
Washington, Beaufort, Tyrrell, Hyde, and Dare County areas with any
respiratory aliments are advised to closely monitor this ongoing
situation and take the necessary actions to avoid any prolonged
inhalation of any significant smoke from this fire. Please stay tuned
to local law enforcement and fire department officials for further
information or any evacuation orders."
are now 254 personnel supporting this incident and more resources
continue to arrive. The primary fire suppression agencies are the U.S.
Fish & Wildlife Service and North Carolina Forest Service. Local
fire departments are being joined by other state fire departments to
support structure protection. The structure protection group is staging
at the Mattamuskeet High School on U.S. Highway 264 in Swan Quarter.
The incident is also using personnel and equipment from other
southeastern state and federal agencies, including Mississippi, South
Carolina, and Tennessee.
Additionally, private industry is assisting fire managers with incident
logistical needs. Cisco Systems Inc. has deployed a Network Emergency
Response Vehicle to the Ponzer Incident Command Post. This mobile
communications platform is providing the N.C. Incident Management Team
both telephone and wireless communication systems and on-site technical
Officials advise that because of the peat burning underground, it could
be weeks or months before the fire is completely extinguished.
Additional information on the fire, including photos and maps can be found by visiting the Inciweb (http://inciweb.org/state/34) Web site.