Swamp fire out … finally

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Great Dismal Swamp wildfire was officially declared out on Monday after burning for 111 days — more than three and a half months.

Recent rain finally doused the few remaining hot spots that held on through Hurricane Irene and continued to burn even though they were surrounded by water.

“We are happy this one is out,” Tim Craig, refuge fire management officer, said in a press release. “This has been a very difficult fire that moved deep into the peat soils of the swamp during a period of below normal rainfall. However, we are now confident the ground fire is no longer active.”

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The fire was discovered on Aug. 4 after having been sparked by lightning, experts have said. It eventually grew to consume 6,574 acres and as much as five feet of peat soil.

Refuge staff surveyed the burn area on Friday and found no evidence of smoke from two stubborn spots that had refused to fizzle out. They had been unreachable by ground crews because they were surrounded by saturated and flooded land.

Crews took a reconnaissance flight on Monday to confirm that the spots had stopped burning, Craig said.

More than 21 inches of rain fell on the fire between Aug. 27 and Nov. 21, including about a foot from Hurricane Irene. October and November have been dry months at the swamp, aiding the fire’s extended life.

At one point, more than 400 firefighters from around the country were battling the blaze.

The popular auto tour route to Lake Drummond remains closed because the road received extensive damage from heavy fire equipment. Repairs are under way, and refuge officials will make an announcement when the road is again safe for public access, they said.

For more information on the swamp, call 986-3705.