May 12, 2016

Whipping Creek Road fire is contained but not 'out'

Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge officials say that the refuge has received numerous calls asking if the Whipping Creek Road fire, which burned for several weeks on the Dare and Hyde county mainland, has been declared "out."  

In a news release, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service explains that although the fire is contained, it is not considered "out."

District fire management officer Bert Plante says that it may not be declared out for some time.  

"Typically, when a fire moves through surface fuels, it dries the needles, leaves, etc. in the canopy," he said. "These fuels subsequently fall to the ground, often resulting in a continuous carpet of fresh, burnable fuel.  In fact, the N.C. Forest Service had to go down around 5th Avenue yesterday afternoon and send a flex trac in on a 0.2 acre re-burn spot.  Plus, refuge staff reported smoke blowing onto (U.S.) 264 from the east in the vicinity of 4th Avenue yesterday afternoon."

Plante continued, "When there are pockets of heat, such as large logs, stumps, or areas of peat soil burning, it can and will ignite this new fuel. This is why, while the fire is contained, it still will require monitoring, and often suppression action, even in areas that were burned over during the original fire."

Contained means that fire officials are confident the fire will remain within its current footprint with supervision and action where necessary.

Controlled means that while there may be hot spots within the burned area, fire officials are confident it will stay in its footprint without anything more than monitoring the area.  That means they don't think that they will need to take any action on anything still burning. 

The fire was started on April 18 by sparks from a lawn-mowing maintenance operation along U.S. 264. At times, while the fire burned, the highway between Stumpy Point and Engelhard was closed to traffic.

Final acreage for the fire was 15,453.  Of that total, 7692 acres ( 50 percent) was on Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge,  821 acres ( 5 percent) was on the Dare Bombing  Range (Department of Defense),  and 6,940 acres (45 percent) was on state and private land under the jurisdiction of the North Carolina Forest Service.

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