Swamp fire … still not out

Published 10:47 pm Tuesday, October 25, 2011

After burning for nearly three months, the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge wildfire just doesn’t know when to quit.

Two small hot spots still are burning, said refuge employee Deloras Freeman.

“We’re just sort of waiting for the groundwater to seep up high enough to put it out,” she said on Tuesday.

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Both of the spots are completely surrounded by water dumped by Hurricane Irene, so they are unreachable and there is no chance of them spreading, Freeman said. They are producing very little smoke.

“You can just barely see it smoking just a little bit,” she said. “When they do the infrared aerial photographs, there’s still a little bit of heat being shown.”

Refuge employees now are focusing on cleaning up the damage done by the fire and hurricane in other parts of the swamp, including rebuilding roads and retrieving equipment from the field, Freeman said. The bus tour route that takes visitors to Lake Drummond is a priority, she added.

“It’s going to take quite a bit of grading and filling in some areas to get that ready so we can open it back up to the public,” she said.

Officials also will install side rails around the parking area at the lake. It used to be surrounded by forest, but now that the trees are gone it drops off, she said.

They’re also in the process of cleaning firefighting equipment out from around Lake Drummond so it can be reopened as soon as the road is prepared.

The fire, which was sparked by lightning on Aug. 4, quickly mushroomed into the largest fire in the refuge’s history. It scorched nearly 6,400 acres in the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and the connected Dismal Swamp State Park in North Carolina.