Water from North Carolina’s second-largest, naturally-formed lake is expected to start helping prevent nutrient-rich peat soil from being ignited by a wildfire that has been burning on mainland northeastern North Carolina more than a week ago.
And despite substantial wind gusts across the fire area Saturday, the Last Resort Fire in Tyrrell County is now 56 percent contained. Additional mapping has revealed the fire is 5,280 acres in size, according to the N.C. Forest Service.
Firefighting personnel established pump sites at Phelps Lake and a fresh water canal alongside Seagoing Road. Water is flowing from Phelps Lake and should begin saturating the fire area by the end of the day Monday. Water will be used to soak the area over the next several days.
A community meeting was held Sunday by representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the N.C. Forest Service to address the plan for moving water to the fire area and answer questions.
The odor of smoke has wafted in the air across portions of the area since the fire started on March 24, and even as far away as northern Virginia, Washington D.C. and the Maryland suburbs on Monday.
Operational resources working the fire include 79 personnel from the N.C. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. There have been no injuries and no structures threatened.
Areas on the mainland have been prone to wildfires that have burned the nutrient-rich peat soils for months, especially during periods of extended drought.
In the spring of 2016, the Whipping Creek Fire burned over 15,000 acres in Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in mainland Dare and Hyde counties and the Dare Bombing Range.
While the summer of 2016 was wetter than normal, helping ease drought conditions somewhat, it took Hurricane Matthew that October to finally help extinguish the fire with record-setting rainfall and flooding.
During another serious drought year in 2011, the Pains Bay Fire burned over 45,000 acres of the refuge and bombing range while threatening to spread into the village of Stumpy Point.
That fire smoldered for months with smoke plumes visible from more than 100 miles away, that would blanket the Outer Banks with a thick, acrid haze for days when the winds blew the right direction.
It took rains from Hurricane Irene at the end of August to finally put it out.
A temporary flight restriction (TFR) remains in effect for the Last Resort Fire. The TFR restricts all civilian aircraft, manned and unmanned, within 5 miles of the fire. The flight restriction remains in place until aviation support is no longer needed.
For information updates, visit https://inciweb.wildfire.gov/incident-information/ncpor-last-resort-fire.