Wildfire burning deep into peat

We got a little rain here in Washington County last night and today, but not enough to dampen the stubborn wildfire that’s been burning on the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge since June 1. And the daily report on the fire that came out at 6 p.m. had some startling information in it. The North Carolina Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report that the fire hasn’t spread beyond the 41,000 acres that have been burning for most of the time since it started, but it’s burning down into the peat. In some places, it’s burned four feet of peat.

The depth of the peat ranges from two feet to six feet in most of the burning area, but in a few places it’s as deep as 10 feet. Today’s report also included this explanation about how water is being moved around to fight the fire:

“Water pumping operations continue to reinforce fire lines. Up to 50 pumps of various types may be working at any one time to move water around the fire. High volume lift pumps are used to pump water from lakes into canals, and to pump water from one canal to another. Smaller pumps are used to deliver water from canals to the fire through irrigation systems. Sprinkling water on top of the ground prevents flare-ups near the containment lines, but it does not completely extinguish the fire burning below ground.

“Forty-four wildland fire engines are assigned to the fire today. They carry from 200 to 1,200 gallons of water, and can move to strategic locations around the perimeter of the fire to suppress hot spots and flare-ups.”

Firefighters are expecting the fire to become “more active” later this week when hot, dry weather returns. And the drought is prompting people to cut back on or cancel fireworks shows for the upcoming July 4 holiday weekend.

The photo at the top of this entry is from the website Firehouse.com and shows firefighters from the Southern Shores Volunteer Fire Department in Dare County battling the blaze. The website reported that as of June 27, the cost of fighting the fire has exceeded $4 million.

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