Driven by gusty northeast winds, the Whipping Creek Road wildfire grew quickly on Wednesday to an estimated 14,000 acres.
According to this morning’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service news release, the fire is presently 15 percent contained.
Accurate mapping of the fire has been hindered by dense smoke obscuring the flame front. The good news is that no homes or businesses have been directly threatened by the flames, though U.S. 264 remains closed for about 30 miles.
Today’s southerly winds will again challenge firefighters as the fire is pushed in a northerly direction by an approaching cold front. Current suppression plans call for holding the fire south of Jackson and Maple roads. Friday’s predicted rainfall is not forecast to bring enough moisture to wet available fuels feeding the fire. Dry and sunny skies following the frontal passage will quickly dry what little precipitation falls on Friday.
The wildfire has caused local law enforcement to close a portion of U.S. 264 between the communities of Stumpy Point and Engelhard. The highway was closed because of safety hazards associated with the fire’s proximity, dense smoke and burned-out power poles and guard rail supports. The N.C. Department of Transportation has installed detour signs as needed to redirect traffic traveling this highway.
Stumpy Point residents are allowed to proceed past the roadblock at the U.S. 64/264 intersection with proper identification showing a Stumpy Point address.
The fire has burned through private lands and lands owned by US.. Department of Defense, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and the Nature Conservancy. These agency and private land managers have been cooperating with the Incident Management Team to suppress the fire.
While the fire is large in size, its flames and smoke have not directly threatened any communities in the immediate area. The fire has had little impact on local commerce, and all businesses and public facilities remain open.
Smoke drift has been problematic within and adjacent to the fire footprint, but near-by communities have not experienced severe ground-level smoke. Fire officials recommend that if ground-level smoke does persist, it is best to remain indoors and keep windows closed.
The N.C. Department of Environmental and Natural Resources has issued a code red air pollution alert until at least 7 a.m. Friday for Tyrell and mainland Dare and Hyde counties because fine particulates from the fire in the region may reach unhealthy levels.
For updates on the fire, visit http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4691/# or the USFWS in North Carolina Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/USFWS.NC/.