COLUMBIA, N.C. (AP) A wildfire that started on a wildlife refuge in rural eastern North Carolina nearly tripled in size as it sent smoke and ash as far away as the Outer Banks and neighboring Virginia on Thursday.
A wildfire in western Texas burned out of control most of the day and wind gusts up to 40 mph were forecast overnight.
The North Carolina fire consumed more than 28,985 acres, or just over 45 square miles, of forest and fields at Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. About half the fire was burning on the refuge and about half was on private land.
Officials have ordered the evacuation of 70 homes, including 40 on Thursday.
No homes have burned and nobody has been injured, although two firefighters suffered heat exhaustion earlier in the week, said North Carolina Forest Service spokesman Bill Swartley.
Swartley said Thursday night that firefighters had hoped to contain the fire at an access road in the refuge but that it jumped containment lines, giving it the potential to double in size again.
The fire was started by lightning Sunday at the wildlife refuge and gradually spread during the week because of dry conditions and flammable peat soil.
Earlier Thursday, smoke and ash filled the air in Manteo, about 45 miles east of the fire, as well as in Chesapeake, Va., some 75 miles north of the refuge, officials said.
The fire could last two months or more unless the area gets substantial rainfall, said Tony Spencer of Hyde County Emergency Management.
In Texas, forest officials said a wildfire that has burned more than 31,000 acres in two days is far from being contained. It started when a Union Pacific crew was working on railroad tracks west of Marfa in western Texas.
The Forest Service said about 60 homes were in danger but none had been damaged as of Thursday afternoon.
Union Pacific was working with state officials to make sure property owners were compensated for any losses, railroad spokesman Joe Arbona said.
“We truly regret this,” he said. “It was clearly not intentional but we will definitely take care of folks out there.”