The U.S. Forest Service says containment has jumped significantly in the fire in the Croatan National Forest in Craven County.
Officials said Thursday morning the fire is now 60% contained, a huge improvement from the previous figure of 25% containment. Officials credit improved weather conditions allowing them to continue to burn along containment lines and control the fire.
The Forest Service says it has cost about $300,000 so far to fight the blaze. It began after foresters started a controlled burn of just 1,500 acres.
The focus now is bringing in water to extinguish the hot spots still burning the peat soil. The amount of land still involved in active ground fire is much smaller than the overall size of the fire itself, which is listed at 21,331 acres, which is about 33 square miles.
Forest Service officials said Wednesday they expected full containment by June 30. They were still assessing this morning if that date will move up based on the improved containment percentage.
With more than 21,000 acres burned and predictions that the fire in the Croatan National Forest won't be 100% contained until the end of the month, U.S. Forest Service officials do have some good news to share. They say fire lines are holding.
Conditions in Craven County were a little hazy in some of the areas where we were Wednesday, but they were not awful. Officials say they are targeting peat fires which are the main culprit for heavy smoke.
The burned out areas near the fire are parts of the actual fire line intended to keep the fire from advancing as the forest service aims for the fire to consume itself. Helicopters with water scoopers swooped overhead making strategic drops.
Public information officer Don Simon says that they have academic experts assisting with the peat fires which are causing all that nuisance smoke. Simon says, "They're going to come out and evaluate what we've got here. They're going to look at our soils, look at the water table they are going to look at every aspect that could affect a peat fire and try to determine the best approach to reducing it."
U.S. Congressman Walter Jones has called for an investigation into why the forest service conducted the prescribed burn during windy weather. The forest service says that investigation will take place after the fire is out.