USA –Shifting winds could push heavy smoke and odor from Camden County, N.C., brush fires into southern Chesapeake and other parts of Hampton Roads today.
“We’re going to have a million people up there rubbing their eyes,” said Mike Petruncio, incident commander and district engineer for the North Carolina Division of Forest Resources.
Residents with chronic lung diseases are being warned to stay inside as much as possible if the smoke blows in from nagging fires to the south. Chesapeake Health Director Dr. Nancy Welch also suggested travelers keep vehicle windows up during the day.
An anticipated shift in the wind direction could bring smoke that might linger over the region, fire officials said. Winds are expected to shift from the northwest to the south sometime today, with wind speeds between 8 and 12 mph, according to predictions from the National Weather
Service in Wakefield.
Windy, dry conditions have contributed to many brush fires in the region and elsewhere in Virginia in recent days.
Photo: A volunteer firefighter from South Mills, N.C., drags a fire hose Monday amid thick smoke along U.S. 17 in Camden County while fighting an 800-acre brush fire. (Steve Earley | The Virginian-Pilot)
Virginia National Guard members and a helicopter were on standby in case they were needed to battle the blazes. The Guard deployed 125 soldiers on active duty to wildfires in different parts of the state.
Fires and the threat of fires in Suffolk, Chesapeake and Camden County, N.C., kept local firefighters busy Monday.
In Suffolk, a portion of the 1100 block of Portsmouth Blvd. was shut down in the afternoon as firefighters worked to control a brush fire. In Chesapeake, motorists using U.S. 17 were detoured to U.S. 13 or Va. 168 because of heavy smoke from fires.
Chesapeake has issued a ban on open burning until further notice. The ban includes open-air burning of yard debris, land-clearing operations, agricultural burning, burning in barrels and all other open-air burning, according to the Chesapeake Fire Department. The ban does not prohibit cooking on grills.
South of the state border in the past two days, high winds fueled 25 wildfires totaling 2,300 acres in northeastern North Carolina, including 800 acres in Camden County.
The fire in Camden County is 40 percent contained behind fire breaks, Petruncio said. A CL-215 aircraft was scooping up to 1,400 gallons of water per trip out of the Currituck Sound and dumping it on hot spots.
The ground fire could last a week or more depending on rain.
Residents of Carolina Village in Moyock were evacuated for about two hours late Sunday. Winds drove the Camden fire toward Currituck County.
Fires were reported in several counties, including Pasquotank, Chowan, Perquimans and Dare.
The Camden fire was the toughest to control and the biggest threat to spread. In addition to the aboveground brush fire, an underground peat fire was reported Monday.