Update: Eastern North Carolina Wildfire Nearly out; Firefighters Leave

August 7, 2008

A wildfire that has burned more than 62 square miles of eastern North Carolina forests and fields is nearly extinguished and firefighters are wrapping up operations, a spokesman said Aug. 5.

Fire managers have sent scores of people back to their home bases, reducing the number from a high of 543 on June 14 to about 100, said spokesman Roger Miller. They can be recalled if necessary, and by the end of the week, only about 10 people would be left to monitor the area, he said.

“We had a helicopter that took infrared imagery yesterday and it is still showing a few very isolated hot spots, mostly well in the interior of the fire, that we don’t consider any kind of a threat at this point,” said Miller.

Crews operating pumps that flooded areas with 2 billion gallons of water are among those sent home. Miller said the areas that have been flooded will remain so for up to four weeks so water can soak into the flammable peat soil and extinguish fire burning deep under the surface.

The fire, which was named the Evans Road Fire, began June 1 with a lightning strike on private land and has burned in and around Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. It has burned more than 40,000 acres, 60 percent of which was refuge property. As of Aug. 5, it was 90 percent contained.

Four minor injuries were reported and three hunting cabins were destroyed, Miller said. The cost of fighting the fire now stands at $18.6 million.

Federal, North Carolina and local firefighters worked with personnel from Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

At the height of the fire, smoke reached thousands of feet in the air and obscured vision in the area. The smoke was detected as far away as Richmond, Va.

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