In Eastern North Carolina, there are currently three counties battling wildfires and many surrounding counties suffering from the smoke. Smoke has been reported as far west as Raleigh and is expected to travel to northern states. Firefighters are working around the clock to get these fires under control and to keep the surrounding neighbors safe. The heat and drought we are currently experiencing has considerably slowed firefighters’ progress.
Dare County. The fire in Dare County began with a lightening strike in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge and has since burned over 70 square miles. It has been going on for two months now and, as of this morning, is said to be 95% contained. Despite this progress, the fire is still going strong. According to WRAL, the center of the blaze is deep in the woods and on elevated ground, making flooding extremely difficult despite the 400 million gallons of water being pumped daily by firefighters.
Pender County. The fire in this area is believed to have also been the result of a lightening strike and most likely began on Saturday, June 18 although not discovered until Sunday. The fire began in Pender County’s Holly Shelter Game Land and in less than a week has consumed over 18,000 acres. It crossed into Onslow County on Wednesday and at that point was considered completely uncontained (Jacksonville Daily News). Voluntary evacuations have gone into effect so those in the surrounding areas need to stay up to date and watch for information on their location regarding fire hazards, shelter openings, and evacuation routes. According to Witn news, the fire quadrupled in size on Wednesday and smoke may be seen as far north as Delaware and Maryland. My parents live in Delaware and said yesterday that smell of smoke was already present.
As of Wednesday, July 6th, the fire is 68% contained but will still continue to produce heavy smoke due to burning peat moss and other forest materials.
Onslow County. Onslow County has been seeing a great deal of smoke and even ash, as have other nearby counties. Onslow is actually dealing with smaller fires popping up as a result of the Pender County fire. Forest Ranger, Rickey Adkins told Jacksonville Daily News, “I have a theory that the big fire is causing a draft that is drawing smaller fires out of the ground.” There are reports of at least four smaller fires that have popped up within the county, mainly in the Southwest area.
Wednesday, July 6th, a fire on Gum Branch Rd in Jacksonville led to the condemnation of 4 businesses. The cause of this fire is still under investigation, but added to the amount of smoke already present in the city. Fortunately, the fire was put out quicklyand was unoccupied at the time.
Effects of the Fires and What You Can Do. We live in Onslow County, not for from the Pender County line and the smoke has been pretty horrible. Staying inside only helps so much; the smell of smoke seeps into the buildings and homes. I cannot imagine how much harder it must be for those with medical conditions as well as those closer to these fires or directly fighting them. If you live anywhere near these areas, it is imperative to stay up to date as fires can change their path and intensity very quickly. Have your emergency kit ready, including prescription medications, important documents, and know your evacuation route. Stay indoors as much as possible. This is especially important for young children and those with medical issues. Most drug stores sell face masks for a few dollars and may offer some relief. People that work outside need to be extra cautious as the heat makes breathing even more difficult. Please keep in mind the dedicated firefighters and other professionals that are dealing directly with these fires everyday. They are not only fighting the fire but are also dealing with the heavy equipment and hot protective gear, the smoke, and the heat. You can check with your local fire station to see if they are collecting supplies such as bottled water, snacks, ice packs, etc to give to those working on containing and putting out the fire. Visibility will be severely limited at times so use extreme caution when driving. Use common sense when going outside and check your local news frequently for updates.