The official fire origin investigation of the Pains Bay Wildfire burning now for 25 days confirms the cause was a lightning strike.
Early on, fire officials said lightning started the fire in Dare County. The Incident Commander, John Howard, says those announcements were accurate but premature.
The North Carolina Division of Forest Resources investigation shows a lightning strike about noon on May 4th north of the Pains Bay Canal was the cause. The lightning appears to have struck at least one tree and traveled into the ground to spark thick duff. Duff is the layer of pine needles and leaves found on the ground.
Howard says this type of fire takes more time to fight to make sure it is not smoldering in the duff. The origin site is estimated to be about 400-500 yards from Highway US-264, which is open now to traffic 24-hours a day, after being closed several days due to thick smoke.
Just over 27-thousand acres are still burning near the Stumpy Point community and the wildfire is 80% contained.