Millions of gallons of water pumped on peat fire

Millions of gallons of water pumped on peat fire

10 June 2011

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USA — Smoke is drifting as far north as Washington, D.C. as crews pump millions of gallons of water on stubborn ground fire that is part of the larger Pains Bay fire in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.

Flammable organic peat ranges from a few inches to 8 feet deep in the ground, said the multi-agency team fighting the fire.

Because of the lack of rain, peat, which was once used as a fuel, continues to burn even when the surface fire is put out, according to the North Carolina Incident Management Team.

“The ground fire will continue until the fire consumes all the peat down to mineral soil, the fire burns down to a level of high moisture content, or the soil moisture level rises to the fire as a result of an extended heavy rain or pumping operations,” the team said in a statement Friday.

Overall, the fire, which was started by lighting May 4, covers about 45,000 acres or 70 square miles. The ground fire encompasses about 7,000 acres.

“An aerial tanker with a 1,400 gallon capacity would have to make 233 drops to cover one acre of ground with water one foot deep,” the statement said.

The fire is 75 percent contained. Smoke will continue to be a problem for the Outer Banks Saturday.

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