Swamp fire smoke returns

Swamp fire smoke returns

17 August 2011

published bywww.somdnews.com


USA — A fire at the Great Dismal Swamp Wildlife Refuge continues to rage on and smoke continues to drift over Southern Maryland. The latest blanket of smoke descended upon St. Mary’s County on Saturday after making an appearance earlier last week.

“Until they get substantial rains I think we’re still going to have this problem,” said Gerald Gardiner, emergency management manager with the St. Mary’s County Department of Public Safety.

The Great Dismal Swamp is on the Virginia and North Carolina border, about 115 miles away from St. Mary’s County as the crow flies.

By Tuesday morning, the fire had expanded to about 6,000 acres, according to the federal Incident Information System. “The fire is burning through the deep peat layer, which sometimes measures up to 6 feet below the surface,” a statement said.

The fire was started Aug. 4 by a lightning strike.

There were 385 people fighting the fire as of Monday, but the fire was only 10 percent contained.

“Ample regrowth of brush and grasses since the 2008 fire, along with large amounts of dead and downed trees are fueling this fire,” the Incident Information System report said.

The fire needs about 6 inches of rain over several days to be extinguished. Until that happens, “dense smoke will be likely be a public health and safety concern for the foreseeable future,” the release said.

The National Weather Service issued air quality alerts south of Norfolk, Va., on Monday.

On Saturday, Gardiner was helping to set up for the fire and rescue volunteer appreciation day on the grounds of the government center in Leonardtown. The smoke “was pretty bad in the morning,” he said, but cleared out and then came back in the afternoon.

There were no reports of outdoor events and other activities in St. Mary’s canceled on Saturday.

Winds were out of the northwest on Monday and out of the west on Tuesday and Heather Sheffield, forecaster with the National Weather Service’s Sterling, Va., office, said winds will start to shift from the southeast Wednesday afternoon and be from out of the south by Thursday morning, which could blow more smoke over Southern Maryland.


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