Code Purple, Code Red Conditions Expected This Weekend

Code Purple and Code Red air quality alerts are expected for the Memorial Day holiday weekend for mainland Dare County thanks to smoke from the Pains Bay Wildlife.

It is the first time a Code Purple alert has been issued because of the fire, which has burned for more than three weeks outside of Stumpy Point.

The state says Code Orange conditions are predicted for the weekend for Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hyde, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Tyrrell and Washington counties.

Winds are pushing the smoke to the north, and that's expected to last through the weekend.

The fire remains at 65% contained.

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The portion of Highway 264 closed because of the Dare County wildfire re-opened Thursday. It will be open daily from 10:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m.

The fire remains at 65% contained and an estimated 28,062 acres have been scorched from the flames.

Smoke continues to be a problem for nearby residents. Once again forecasters have predicted Code Red air quality in Manteo and portions of mainland Dare County. Code Orange conditions could occur in Camden, Currituck, Dare and Hyde counties.

The fire was detected three weeks ago and foresters say it began by lightning.

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Firefighters battling a new front on a long-burning wildfire in Dare County say they have kept the fire from spreading past new containment lines.

Authorities say a few windy days have helped spread the fire. They said Wednesday they continue to monitor the Pains Bay Wildfire to see if they need to evacuate the town of Stumpy Point. So far, no one has been ordered to leave.

Officials at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge say they are relocating captive red wolves away from the fire.

Authorities have readjusted the number of acres burned to 28,062.

Meanwhile, the state is again warning people in Dare County of unhealthy air conditions.

Forecasters have predicted Code Red in Manteo and portions of mainland Dare County. This as Code Orange conditions, or air quality that is unhealthy for sensitive groups, could occur in parts of Camden, Currituck, Dare and Hyde counties.

The fire started three weeks ago from a lightning strike.

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Firefighters say the Pains Bay Wildfire continues to burn uncontrolled and has now grown to 29,000 acres.

The fire has now closed a larger portion of U.S. 264. That highway is now closed from the U.S. 64 intersection to the Hyde County line. Only local residents will be allowed access into Stumpy Point.

Thirty mile per hour winds Monday helped push the three week old fire out of containment lines. Foresters say overnight the fire had crossed two roads, but had not crossed back over 264.

Forecasters are predicting a Code Red air quality alert for Wednesday as the smoke drifts north and eastward. That Code Red will impact residents in Dare, Hyde and Tyrrell counties.

A Code Orange alert is predicted for Bertie, Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hertford, Hyde, Pasquotank, Perquimans and Tyrrell and Washington counties.

A community meeting is scheduled for Stumpy Point residents at 6:30 p.m. so they can ask questions about the fire situation and evacuation plans.

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Fire officials say there is no immediate threat to Stumpy Point after that giant wildfire expanded in Dare County.

Spokesman Chris Carlson tells WITN News that they are still assessing the full threat to the village. Monday evening the community was ordered evacuated, but that was cancelled some 45 minutes later. About 200 people live in the community.

High winds Monday afternoon allowed the Pains Bay Wildfire to jump containment lines and get about a mile and a half from the village. Because of the outbreak, the fire jumped to 26,678 acres and is now 65% contained.

Highway 264 had reopened Monday on a limited basis, but was again closed due to the fire's expansion. Carlson says he doesn't anticipate the highway to reopen today.

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Officials say they're evaluating "hour by hour" whether the Dare County community of Stumpy Point should be evacuated to protect residents from the Pains Bay Wildfire. As of 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, no evacuation had been ordered.

Monday afternoon heavy smoke from the Pains Bay Wildfire was again affecting nearby communities and officials said there would be an evacuation of Stumpy Point, but it was quickly called off about 6:30 p.m.

Gusty winds whipped up the wildfire Monday, causing it to spot across control lines and reducing containment of the fire from 85% Sunday to 65% Monday night.

The wildfire was sparked by lightning May 5th and crews had managed to control the fire enough Monday to re-open Highway 264 between Stumpy Point and Englehard during daylight hours which was shut down weeks ago because excessive smoke caused dangerous driving conditions.

That wildfire in Dare County had been 80-85% contained since May 12th which was good news for the 200 or more residents of the Stumpy Point community until Monday afternoon. Now the fire has grown to 26,678 acres.

"After May 12th we had it contained and we've been putting out hot spots and smoldering peat trying to reduce the smoke and get 264 open and this is sorta a set back but this too shall pass," said Chris Carlson with the NC Forestry Department.

Fire officials now say flames are headed north toward Navy Shell Road near the Navy bombing range away from Stumpy Point, but the fire is still only about 1.5 miles from the community. Crews will make a decision at sunrise Tuesday if Highway 264 will re-open.

The Dare County Sheriff's Department and Emergency Management team called for an evacuation of Stumpy Point Monday afternoon and then called it off just before 6:30 p.m. A public information officer for the Pains Bay Fire says no one was ever evacuated from their home and officials will take the situation hour-by-hour.

Stumpy Point is now being evacuated because the Pains Bay Wildfire. The fire this afternoon jumped across a key containment line, one of the trigger points to evacuate the community.

Some 200 people live in Stumpy Point, and so far no temporary emergency shelters have been set up.

Roger Miller, a public information officer with the North Carolina Division of Forest Resources, tells WITN the fire is 1.5 miles from Stumpy Point. He says winds are in a southerly direction, but the fire could spread toward the homes as a flanking-type fire. Miller says U.S. 264 has also been shut down because of the spreading fire.

Miller says the evacuation of the community is being done as a precaution.

The fire crossed containment lines around 4:00 p.m. Because of 30 mile per hour winds, a helicopter is not having much luck dropping water on the flames.

The fire has consumed some 25,600 acres and has been burning since May 5th.

Stay with WITN News and for more on this developing story.

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Officials say Highway 264 reopened Monday between Stumpy Point and Engelhard for limited hours during the day with drivers escorted by officials. The highway has been closed for weeks because of a massive wildfire in the area.

Fire officials have determined that roadway conditions in the Dare County area are now safe enough for drivers, but they say it will only be open for public travel during daylight hours.

Officials say initially travel will be limited to 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily and all drivers will be escorted. Drivers should expect up to 30 minutes wait at check points.

Fire officials plan to extend the hours of travel in coming days as smoke along the roadway subsides.

Fire officials warn the traveling public that delays may be necessary at times due to heavy smoke on the highway or fire suppression activities.

Fire officials are hopeful that this initial re-opening will help ease some of the inconvenience that commuters and businesses have encountered due to the Pains Bay Fire.

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