Irene dumped 1.7 billion gallons of rain on fire

Published 9:20 pm Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Firefighters battling the smoldering fire in the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge are hoping to get rid of small smoke spots like this one. Hurricane Irene took a toll on the fire, dumping more than a billion gallons of rain on the blaze.

Hurricane Irene dumped a whopping estimated 1.7 billion gallons of rainwater on the wildfire burning in the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.

The fire, which ignited Aug. 4 from a lightning strike, scorched more than 6,000 acres before the hurricane rolled up the coast. It dumped about a foot of rain over most of Suffolk in about 24 hours.

Crews now are fighting their way through downed debris and flooded roads to access about 30 still-smoldering hot spots. Officials are concerned that the downed trees could serve as bridges over containment lines. Hot spots could re-ignite downed trees and carry the fire into unburned fuel on the other side.

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“We can expect a little more heat in the areas with hot spots today as water levels begin to drop,” said Mike Dueitt, incident commander. “There is still work yet to be done, and we are committed to seeing this thing through.”

Most of the fire activity is on the east and south side of the fire, officials said Wednesday.

Throughout the day Wednesday, crews also were removing equipment in areas where the fire was extinguished.

The entire refuge is closed because of the fire and effects from the hurricane. Crews are working on getting certain trails re-opened, a news release said Wednesday.