Onslow County has rescinded a voluntary evacuation order for homes along Highway 50, but a state of emergency remains in place for the county as the Juniper Road wildfire continues to burn.
State foresters say the drought is causing them problems in finding water to battle that big wildfire in Pender and Onslow counties.
The Juniper Road fire remains at 21,336 acres with just 10% containment.
Foresters say they are now using scout planes to find water because the maps the have are not accurate due to the drought.
They say ocean water could be used as a last resort because salt water would cause problems for vegetation. Yesterday the fire area received six to eight-tenths of an inch of rain. Foresters say that helped, but they'll need much more rain to make a big difference.
Onslow County has scheduled a public meeting on the fire to update residents. That meeting will be 7:00 p.m. Saturday at the Holly Ridge Fire and Rescue Department.
Firefighters say they plan to complete fire lines to protect the Holly Ridge and Topsail areas today. That area will be impacted by smoke for quite some time, according to state foresters. The state says it's working closely with local fire departments for fire protection plans for those nearby homes. So far no structures have been damaged by the fire.
The two shelters opened earlier this week for people wanting to leave their homes near the Juniper Rd. Fire have now closed.
Officials say the shelter at Topsail Elementary School in Pender County is closed, saying no one had gone there. The American Red Cross also says no one has been to the shelter at Southwest Middle School in Onslow County, so it is now closed. However, the Red Cross says it will reopen the shelter if needed.
Some of the severe weather that rolled through Eastern Carolina Thursday brought rain to the Juniper Road Fire in Pender and Onslow counties. However, officials call the storm "a mixed blessing." "We're not going to turn away rain, we love it," said Diane Stelz, a public information officer for the fire. "But it does bring other challenges for us." Stelz says the rain was accompanied by wind, which can help fan flames. The storm also brought significant lightning. Stelz says if lightning were to strike somewhere in or near the fire, they may not know it for a few days once flames from the bolt really flare up. Right now, there is no indication that lightning made contact in that area, but officials are watching for that.
Crews with the capability to fight fire by air will be continually assessing their options Friday. The smoke did not allow crews to fly over the fire Thursday. Stelz says whether those planes go up will be played by ear Friday.
People near the fire who are looking to move large animals to a shelter can contact (910) 259-1210. Pender County Emergency Management is coordinating the shelter for animals, such as horses and cows. There is a cost to put animals in the shelter, which is located in Sampson County.
Smoke from the Pender county fire will continue to move to the northeast across Onslow, Jones, Craven, and Carteret, and adjacent counties, with southwesterly winds in place through the day Friday. Smoke from the Dare county fire will persist along the Outer Banks from the Oregon Inlet northward. Winds will become westerly on Saturday, cleaing the smoke over many of the inland areas, while Onlslow and Carteret counties will continue to see the smoke, along with the central Outer Banks.
Voluntary evacuations have been advised for residents of about 40 homes, and state foresters say up to 2,100 homes could be threatened.
Foresters say the containment lines are holding now in most spots.
There are no reports of injuries or structures damaged.
State foresters say up to 2,100 homes could be threatened by a growing wildfire that's still out of control in Pender and Onslow counties. But so far no structures have been damaged.
Firefighters say the smoke is so bad that aircraft can't fly today to help update the size of the giant fire.
Public information officer Diane Steltz says the fire remains at 18,280 acres, and their latest maps show the blaze right at the Onslow county line.
Officials say the fire is currently expanding in a circular pattern and moving at approximately ¼ mile per hour.
Southwesterly winds on Thursday will continue to push smoke to the northeast from the fire.
A dense smoke advisory remains for Onslow and Pender counties through 6 p.m. Thursday. People with respiratory issues should avoid prolonged periods outdoors . Visibilities over eastern Pender and western Onslow counties could drop to under 1/2 mile at times.
An air quality alert was issued for Martin, Pitt, Greene, Duplin, Craven, Jones, Pamlico, Carteret, Hyde, Dare, Tyrrell, Camden, and Currituck counties through 3 p.m. Thursday. On Friday Code Purple conditions are possible in five coastal counties.
A news release from Pender County says the smoke could drift as far north as Maryland and Delaware.
The fire started Sunday from a lightning strike in the Holly Shelter Game Land. Voluntary evacuations remain in effect for residents along a stretch of Highway 50 and two shelters remain open.
There is zero containment reported at the Holly Shelter Game Land Fire, and officials say the chances the fire will get even bigger are high. The fire nearly quadrupled in size Wednesday. An update on the size of the fire will be available later today. The fire is said to be at the Pender/Onslow County line.
The estimated containment date for the wildfire is not until July 1, next Friday.
Southwesterly winds on Thursday will continue to push smoke to the northeast from the Pender county fire.
A dense smoke advisory was issued for Onslow and Pender counties through 6 p.m. Thursday. People with respiratory issues should avoid prolonged periods outdoors . Visibilities over eastern Pender and western Onslow counties could drop to under 1/2 miles at times.
An air quality alert was issued for Martin, Pitt, Greene, Duplin, Craven, Jones, Pamlico, Carteret, Hyde, Dare, Tyrrell, Camden, and Currituck counties through 3 p.m. Thursday.
Smoke from the Pains Bay fire in Dare County will continue to plague portions of Dare and Currituck counties as well.
What Crews Are Doing
Officials say fire fighters are plowing lines around the fire with tractors, in order to expose the mineral soil, which does not burn. This helps slow the fire's progress. Once those lines are plowed, crews can also perform burnout operations, which is literally fighting fire with fire. Crews will burn the area between the fire and the plow lines to eliminate that area from burning later.
Officials say they have some air support available to them. However, the resources must be shared with crews fighting other fires, including the Pains Bay Wildfire in Dare County and another fire along the Bladen/Cumberland County line.
The helicopter is able to drop water on the fire, as is the "super scooper." That's a plane that is able to scoop water from the ocean to drop on the fire. Single engine air tankers also make drops, although they must land to reload the water and retardant.
Officials say volunteer fire departments are staged along Highway 50 on the north end of the fire. The crews there have a contingency plan ready in case the fire threatens any of the houses there.
State of Emergency
Shelters were opened Wednesday for people in the voluntary evacuation zone, which is along Highway 50 in the Holly Ridge area. It's not clear if anyone went to the shelters Wednesday night; no one was there when WITN's Brittany Creamer went there Wednesday evening. The shelters are set up at Southwest Middle School and North Topsail Elementary School.
Voluntary evacuations began Wednesday for some people in Onslow County who live near that big wildfire burning in adjacent Pender County. This as Onslow County declares a state of emergency because of the fire.
The North Carolina Division of Forest Resources now says the Holly Shelter Game Land fire has consumed 18,282 acres.
Firefighters have asked for voluntary evacuations along Highway 50, between Shepard Road and Padgett Road. The Red Cross has opened a shelter at Southwest Middle School as well North Topsail Elementary School. Should residents feel that they need to relocate to a shelter, they should bring pillows, sleeping bags or blankets, in addition to any medications that they require.
We have reports of ash from the fire falling in Jacksonville and Emerald Isle.
The fire started from a lightning strike over the weekend.
The wildfire burning in Pender County has now doubled in size to 10,000 acres and a state of emergency could be enacted.
The fire began this past weekend in the Holly Shelter Game Land from a lightning strike. No homes are in danger at this time, and firefighters are plowing multiple fire lines in hopes of keeping it from crossing the highways.
Pender County says the fire is five miles wide and Highways 50 and 53 will likely be impacted by smoke. That smoke on Tuesday spread to Greenville, Kinston and even to Raleigh.
The county says they are preparing to open shelters later this afternoon, if necessary. One would be at Burgaw Middle School and another in Topsail Township, depending on fire conditions.
A large wildfire that's burning in Pender County is dumping ash on Topsail Island beaches and spreading smoke across Eastern Carolina.
The Holly Shelter fire has burned between 3,500 and 4,000 acres.
The wildfire was first noticed Saturday and state officials say it was caused by lightning. It is in a remote area of the Holly Shelter Game Land, south of Holly Ridge.
Smoke from the fire has drifted into Onslow County during the past several days and has also been reported in Raleigh. Smoke is also being seen in Greenville, Kinston and Snow Hill.
No homes have been threatened, but emergency management officials did alert nearby residents to be prepared in case evacuations are necessary.
The state Division of Forest resources has called in additional firefighting staff that should arrive later today. The Holly Shelter Game Land remains closed.
The brush fire burning in Pender County has now reached 100 acres and is threatening homes in the area, according to officials.
Lightning ignited the flames in the Holly Shelter game land Friday night. Crews managed to get a section of the fire under control over the weekend, but temperatures in the 100's on Monday caused the fire to flare up again.
A large smoke plume may cause breathing problems for some. There are reports of fallen ash from the smoke cloud in some areas.
Pender County emergency management officials say several homes near the Traders Neck area could be threatened. Residents in the area are on alert for possible evacuations.
A brush fire burning in Pender County has created smoky conditions for some people in Onslow County.
Onslow County residents started reporting the smell of smoke Sunday night. Dispatchers say the smoke is coming from a brush fire in the Holly Shelter game lands area of Pender County, located on Lodge Rd.
The NC Division of Forest Resources says the brush fire was reported at 3:30 p.m. Sunday. The fire's size is estimated at 100 acres. Officials say six tractors worked to plow containment lines around the perimeter of the fire Sunday. A reconnaissance flight is planned for Monday to see if the containment lines fully surround the fire.
Officials say the fire's cause is under investigation, but they are exploring the possibility that a lightning strike ignited it.
Smoke will likely continue to affect people in Onslow County Monday, based on the direction of the wind.