Winds bring smoke to the west

Published 11:26 pm Friday, August 12, 2011

Wind: Smoke blows from a fire in the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge on Thursday. Winds on Friday carried smoke and ash to the west, affecting communities that had previously escaped the effects of the massive blaze.

Despite increased smoke to the west of the wildfire raging in the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and the Great Dismal State Park in North Carolina, firefighters made progress in battling the conflagration on Friday, officials said.

“Many areas of the fire have burned from ‘open’ ground, where the wind can drive it, into hardwood stands of trees, which really slows the fire behavior down,” said C.J. Norvell, a public information officer for the incident.

Winds shifted on Friday, bringing smoke and ash to areas west of the fire, which previously had been largely spared.

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“We received a lot of calls about the smoke,” Norvell said. “We expect that this smoke will continue to blanket this area at least until Sunday.”

The acreage of the fire now stands at 5,585 acres, which is down from Thursday’s estimate. The change resulted from being able to get a better look at the fire, Norvell said.

“This is not uncommon, as we use estimates when we’re unable to accurately map the fire due to smoke obscuring vision.”

The fire now is the largest ever on the refuge since it was officially established in 1974. It has surpassed the 2008 fire in the same area, which at the time was the longest-lasting and costliest fire in Virginia’s history.

The current fire, which now is about one and a half to two miles from Desert Road, was sparked by lightning. It was reported last Thursday.

Firefighters are working to set up a system of high-volume pumps to suck water out of Lake Drummond and flood the swamp’s canals. A chance of rain on Sunday should help, Norvell said, if it comes to fruition.