Highway 264 Remains Closed Due To Wildfire

Foresters say U.S. 264 in Dare County will remain closed because of the Pains Bay Wildfire.

A ten mile stretch of the highway between Stumpy Point and Engelhard was shut down two weeks ago when the fire first got out of control. Authorities say a large number of fire engines are still working on the roadway to put out the fire, while special irrigation equipment and helicopters are operating close to the highway.

Fire officials say that safety hazard forces the road to remain shut down.

The fire remains at 25,678 acres and is still 80% contained. Foresters say warmer, dryer weather continues to hamper their efforts.


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The massive wildfire burning in Dare County entered its third week Thursday, and remains at 80% contained.

The fire, which authorities say started with a lightning strike, has consumed some 25,600 acres of land southwest of Stumpy Point.

A Code Orange alert for residents from Manteo to Columbia and the Outer Banks has been extended until Friday afternoon because of the fire's smoke.

The alert is for Camden, Currituck, Dare, Hyde, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Tyrrell and Washington counties.

A ten mile section of U.S. 264--between Stumpy Point and the Hyde County line--remains closed because of the fire.


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An air quality advisory is in effect for northeastern North Carolina as smoke from a wildfire in Dare County continues drifting northward.

Officials from the Division of Air Quality say residents from Manteo to Elizabeth City and the northern Outer Banks could experience unhealthy air quality. Sensitive groups of people such as the elderly or those with respiratory ailments are advised to reduce or avoid heavy or prolonged exertion outside.

Code Orange conditions are in effect for Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hyde, Pasquotank, Perquimans and Tyrrell counties.

The wildfire in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in Dare and Hyde counties has burned for almost two weeks.



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A Code Orange air pollution alert continues as smoke from the Dare County wildfire continues to drift northward.

The Division of Air Quality says the Pains Bay Wildfire will again bring smoke Wednesday to residents from Manteo to Elizabeth City and to the northern Outer Banks. Those residents could experience unhealthy air quality, and sensitive groups of people should avoid or reduce prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors.

Forecasters have predicted potential Code Orange conditions for Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hyde, Pasquotank, Perquimans and Tyrrell counties.

The wildfire, which has consumed over 25,000 acres, remains at 80% contained. A 10 mile section of Highway 264 is still closed.


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A Code Orange air quality alert has been issued for people in the northeastern corner of the state because of the Pains Bay Wildfire.

Those people from Manteo to Elizabeth City and on the northern Outer Banks could experience unhealthy air quality. Sensitive groups of people should avoid or reduce prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors.

The state says smoke from the wildfire has lessened, but continues to drift northward.

A state forestry team will take over control of battling that massive wildfire.

The fire, which is 80% contained, has so far burned 25,678 acres. A federal incident management team has been overseeing the fire for the past couple of weeks, and now a state team will assume control. Division of Forest Resources spokesman Brian Haines says that's normal procedure for an incident team to rotate out after two weeks.

The feds say mop up operations continue on the fire, while there are some areas within the lines that still are smoldering on the northern and southern perimeters.

Some 236 people from various state and federal agencies are working on putting out the fire which was discovered May 5th and began due to lightning.


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A fire investigator has identified a lightning strike as the cause of the Pains Bay wildfire. The investigator found that a tree was clearly struck by lightning. It has also been concluded that the fire smoldered and later ignited in what appeared to firefighters to be two separate fires. Weather conditions became favorable for the fire to become explosive. All other possible causes have been ruled out.

Firefighters continue to hold and secure fire containment lines on the northern perimeter of the Pains Bay wildfire on the Hyde-Dare County line.

The fire is estimated to remain about 25,000 acres and is 80% contained.

Fire crews have expanded an irrigation system to secure the northern line. On the southern side of the fire, they are installing an irrigation system north of Highway U.S. 264 to reinforce and secure containment lines.

The fire is about 19 miles south of Manns Harbor. Highway 264 remains closed between Stumpy Point and Engelhard.

More than 200 people are fighting the fire.

According to officials, higher humidities and a chance of rain and storms should help with the blaze in the coming week.

An air quality alert is in effect for Dare County until 3 p.m. Monday. A Code Red air quality action day means fine particulate concentrations withint the region may approach or exceed unhealthy standards.

Officials say communities "north and northeast of the fire will be impacted throughout the week. Smoke settles late at night and early in the morning. Smoke will extend based on the size of the smoke plume and the velocity of the wind. Strong winds push smoke greater distances but also disperse the smoke."


Fire fighters continue to battle the Pains Bay Wildfire burning in Dare County. Officials say higher humidity and a chance of showers and thunderstorms will help extinguish smoldering areas.

The fire has burned 25,678 acres and is estimated to be 75% contained, according to the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge visitor services manager.

Officials say the biggest concern at this point is ground fire, which is fire burning in the organic soil beneath the surface. If this happens near containment lines, the fire could flare up with wind shifts and escape containment.

Air quality experts say the northeast corner of the state can expect smoky conditions both Saturday and Sunday.

A Code Red pollution alert is predicted for mainland Dare County, while a Code Orange is likely for the coastal sections of Dare, as well as Camden, Currituck, Pasquotank, Perquimans and Tyrrell counties.

That means people who are sensitive to air pollution should avoid or reduce prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors. Sensitive groups include the elderly, children, people who work or exercise outdoors, and those with heart conditions and respiratory ailments such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema. Everyone else should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion.

Smoke from the wildfire Friday shifted and is now pushing into northeastern counties, as well as into Virginia Beach.

In an ongoing effort to keep the southern edge of the fire from crossing US Highway 264, firefighters successfully initiated a 1,758 acre burn-out along the south side of Highway 264.

The operation was supported by two helicopters.

Meanwhile, firefighters continue burn-out operations to secure containment lines on the north end of the fire.

In some areas, the wildfire is smoldering and burning in the deep peat.

Plans are to irrigate these areas near the containment lines to better secure the fire perimeter.

The cause of the wildfire is still under investigation.

US Highway 264 remains closed between Stumpy Point and Engelhard.

More than 200 people with these agencies are fighting the fire: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, North Carolina Division of Forest Resources, U.S. Forest Service; National Park Service; Department of Defense – Air Force; Bureau of Land Management; Bureau of Indian Affairs; state forestry agencies including Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Maine, Montana, and Virginia; Stumpy Point, Manns Harbor, and Roanoke Island volunteer fire departments; and Dare County Emergency Management Services.



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Winds from the massive wildfire burning in Dare County are expected to shift and push the smoke northward on Friday.

People with chronic lung and heart ailments as well as children and the elderly should reduce physical exertion and outdoor activity.

Forecasters have predicted Code Red, or unhealthy air quality, in Dare, Tyrrell and Hyde counties.

Residents could experience Code Orange conditions, or air quality that is unhealthy for sensitive groups, in Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hyde, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Tyrrell and Washington counties.

The State Division of Air Quality says intermittent Code Orange conditions are possible as far west and north as Greenville, Tarboro and Roanoke Rapids.

200 people are now fighting the Pains Bay Wildfire, one week after it was first discovered.

The fire has charred 22,252 acres of land in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in Dare County, and has spread smoke all across Eastern Carolina.

Authorities say burn-out operations along Lake Worth Road continue. That should help reinforce containment lines along the northeast corner of the wildfire. Much like the 2008 Evans Road Fire, this fire is smoldering and burning deeply into the peat soil.

The fire remains at 55% contained, while there is no estimate of when they believe it will be fully contained.



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A Code Red air quality alert was predicted for a dozen counties in Eastern Carolina Thursday, though most of the air quality monitors in the area are not registering such high levels at this point.

People in New Bern, Kinston and Morehead City reported smoky and hazy conditions early Thursday morning. Greenville and Washington, however, were not experiencing such conditions.

The Division of Air Quality says the only air quality monitor registering any concerning levels thus far Thursday is the one in northern New Hanover County, near Wilmington. Officials say levels at that site have been elevated since midnight, in the code orange category.

Air quality monitors in Greenville, Jamesville and Tarboro are not registering concerning levels Thursday. The monitors max out at a level of 200. Officials say the monitor in Jamesville spent hours at 200, which means the level was actually higher than the instrument was able to record. However, Thursday morning, that monitor recorded a level of 3.

Officials note that air quality can improve and worsen quickly if the wind changes direction.

The Division of Air Quality is predicting Code Red conditions or unhealthy air quality for southern Dare, Tyrrell, Martin and Washington counties as well as all of Beaufort, Craven, Greene, Hyde, Jones, Lenoir, Pamlico and Pitt counties.

Residents could experience Code Orange conditions, or air quality that is unhealthy for sensitive groups, in the following counties: Carteret, Edgecombe, Martin, Nash, Onslow, and Wilson counties.



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A Code Red air quality alert is now predicted for multiple counties here in Eastern Carolina as the smoke from that huge wildfire in Dare County continues to push westward.

The smell of smoke and hazy conditions have been reported in Beaufort, Bertie, Pitt, Craven, Lenoir and Martin counties today. Tuesday smoke from the wildfire made its way as far west as Durham.

The Division of Air Quality is predicting Code Red conditions or unhealthy air quality for southern Dare, Tyrrell, Martin and Washington counties as well as all of Beaufort, Craven, Greene, Hyde, Jones, Lenoir, Pamlico and Pitt counties.

Residents could experience Code Orange conditions, or air quality that is unhealthy for sensitive groups, in the following counties: Carteret, Edgecombe, Martin, Nash, Onslow, and Wilson counties.

An estimated 22,252 acres have burned in the wildfire since it was discovered Thursday, and the fire is now 55% contained. A new Temporary Flight Restriction in the airspace above the fire was issued beginning Tuesday.

Firefighters successfully completed ignition of a 689 acre burn-out to secure the northeast corner of the Pains Bay wildfire according to public information officer Bill Sweets. Burning the fuel from this block will provide an additional layer of protection for the community of Stumpy Point- should the fire make a run in that direction.

A Sikorsky helicopter and a North Carolina Division of Forest Resources Single Engine Air Tanker made multiple water drops to secure containment lines.

Weather predictions remain favorable through Friday afternoon for wildfire suppression.

Heavy smoke will continue to be visible. An air quality advisory for Dare County is in effect until 3:00 PM Wednesday.

According to Refuge Wildlife Biologist Dennis Stewart, wildlife species most likely to be impacted by this fire are reptiles, primarily turtles and snakes. The refuge also has many nesting neo-tropical migrants (songbirds) in the spring. Nests in the burned area were lost. "But, it's early in the season, so they may re-nest." Stewart said.

Investigators don't know the cause of the fire yet because they have been unable to access the area of ignition due to the heat of the fire. They say arson is a possibility.

US Highway 264 remains closed between Stumpy Point and Engelhard.



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The public information officer for the Pains Bay Wildfire, Bill Sweet, says fire crews are gaining ground on the massive wildfire in Dare County. He says the fire is 50% contained as of Tuesday night.

Sweet says the latest estimate on acreage burned by the wildfire that started in the Alligator National Wildlife Refuge Thursday is now at 21,563 acres.

New pictures from the air show just how intense and massive the pains bay wildfire is in Dare County and just how many acres have been consumed by the fire that's been burning for seven days, torching more than 20, 000 acres and prompting the continued closure of Highway 264, from the Hyde County line to Stumpy Point.

The fire is in the Alligator National Wildlife Refuge, but the effects extend well beyond with an air quality alert for 8 eastern carolina counties.

Fire officials say they are getting closer to fully protecting the village of Stumpy Point from the dangerous fire.

Helicopters continued to make water drops to cool hot spots along containment lines.

Guard rails are melted along Highway 264 where the fire jumped the highway.

"We have 138 people- a few more than that to come in today and we'll put them on the line with particularly engines," said wildfire public information officer Bill Sweet Tuesday.

At 50 percent containment and over 21,563 acres burned since the fire began Thursday- the cause is still under investigation. The signs of an aggressive back burn were in the air. The strategy doubling as a defense for the community of Stumpy Point and a way to neutralize the wild fire.

"In this case we have a northeast wind which is pushing that fire in to the wildfire and when both fires converge the fires go out," said Sweet.

Deanna Decarmo of Stumpy Point was just outside the fire line snapping photos of the smoke Tuesday. The fire initially had her and her neighbors concerned

"They came down to the village and told us possible evacuation--so that was a little scary.. got us in a tizzy for Saturday night." said Decarmo.

The investigation into how the fire started continues. Arson has not been ruled out.



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Smoke from the massive wildfire burning in Dare County has been reported as far west as Durham. The smell of smoke was also noticed in Greenville and Washington Tuesday morning. An air quality alert is in effect for several Eastern Carolina counties until Wednesday morning.

The Pains Bay Wildfire is now 40% contained and has consumed 21,000 acres of the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.

Firefighters say they will continue burn-out operations in the northeast corner of the fire. Once that is completed they say the Stumpy Point community will be well protected.

This as a Sikorsky helicopter continues making water drops to cool hot spots along containment lines.

Highway 264, from the Hyde County line to Stumpy Point, remains closed because of the fire.

An air quality alert for several Eastern Carolina counties is in effect until 8:00 a.m. Wednesday.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has issued a code orange air quality alert for fine particulates for Beaufort, Carteret, Craven, Dare, Hyde, Jones, Onslow, and Pamlico counties.

That means air quality in those counties may approach or exceed unhealthy standards.

Authorities say 138 people are now involved with battling the blaze.



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Authorities say they are investigating the possibility of arson or human carelessness as a cause for the massive wildfire that's burning in Dare County.

So far the Pains Bay Wildfire has charred some 21,000 acres of the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.

At first officials thought lightning started the blaze last week, but so far they have not yet found evidence of that origin.

A ten mile stretch of Highway 264 remains closed because of the fire.

Some 119 people from several agencies are fighting the fire, which is listed as 30% contained.

The state is cautioning coastal residents from Nags Head to Wilmington that the fire could produce unhealthy conditions because of the large amounts of smoke.



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A dense smoke advisory is in effect for eight counties affected by the wildfire in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in Dare County.

People in Beaufort, Hyde, Craven, Dare, Jones, Onslow, Pamlico and Carteret counties may have limited visibility until 8 a.m. today. People with respiratory problems who live near the fire are encouraged to leave the area or stay inside.

Officials say the wildfire at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge has now burned around 21,000 acres. They are warning people in Dare county and surrounding areas of the threat of smoke. Part of Highway 264 between Stumpy Point and Hyde County remains closed.

Officials say two homes on US Highway 264 near the intersection of Bay View Drive were evacuated as a precautionary measure while firefighters lit backfires to protect the structures from the approaching fire.

They say the efforts were successful, and no structures were lost. Families were allowed back into their homes Sunday morning.

Crews say the light rain Sunday and reduced winds has helped to reduce the spreading of the fire and provided time to prepare more containment lines. But weather conditions could worsen Sunday night into Monday.

Officials are warning people to be cautious. Officials say with the changing wind conditions, smoke can be expected almost anywhere in Dare County and in parts of adjacent counties.

Motorists are advised to use extreme caution when driving on roads with smoke. The smoke is patchy and can be very light, then totally obstruct vision.

Officials say people with respiratory problems, such as asthma, should remain indoors with windows closed when smoke is apparent or leave the area.



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Officials say the wildfire at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge has now burned over 15,000 acres. They say the fire continues to spread in nearly all directions.

Officials say the fire continues to spread because of low relative humidity, high temperatures, and erratic, gusty winds.

Today crews are working to widen and improve firebreaks along Jackson, Long Curve, Faircloth, and the Perimeter Road of the Air Force Range in preparation to backburn as the fire approaches.

Firefighters from US Fish and Wildlife Service, NC Forest Service, National Park Service, and volunteer Fire Departments from Stumpy Point, Manns Harbor, Roanoke Island, and Colington are all working to put out the fire.

Other partners assisting with management of the Pains Bay Fire include the NC Department of Transportation, the NC Highway Patrol, and Dare County Sheriff's Office.



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A massive wildfire burning in Eastern Carolina has doubled in size since Friday.

The Pains Bay Fire has burned an estimated 7,000 acres in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Bonnie Strawser with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service says the fire's behavior Saturday has been erratic.

"Relative humidity has been lower than expected, winds have been gusting more than expected, and wind directions have changed frequently during the day," says Strawser. "These conditions have caused firefighters to withdraw from direct attack on the fire."

The Department of Transportation reminds motorists that Highway 264 is shut down between Stumpy Point and the Hyde County line due to the fire.

On Friday Strawser told WITN they're concerned about the deep peat on the refuge, which can burn for days.

The fire was discovered Thursday and started mostly likely from a lightning strike.



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A wildfire in a North Carolina national wildlife refuge is continuing to spread.

Visitor services manager Bonnie Strawser told WITN Friday the fire at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge had spread to more than 3,500 acres by late Friday night.

Firefighters were planning to build containment lines Saturday on the fire's west side. The east side is burning toward the sound and will not be attacked directly.

The fire was discovered Thursday and started mostly likely from a lightning strike.

A 10-mile section of U.S. Highway 264 between Stumpy Point and Engelhard is closed to traffic because of heavy smoke and active fire on both sides of the road. There is no indication of when the road may reopen.

No private property or animals in the refuge was considered endangered by the blaze.



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A massive wildfire is still burning in Eastern Carolina Saturday.

Thousands of acres have burned.

The Department of Transportation reminds motorists that Highway 264 is shut down between Stumpy Point and the Hyde County line due to the fire, which is in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.

As WITN was first to tell you Friday, the fire jumped across all fire lines yesterday, including Highway 264.

Strong southwest winds are pushing the fire, which has been burning since Thursday, in the direction of Stumpy Point. We talked with Bonnie Strawser with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Friday, and she spoke of concern of the deep peat on the refuge, which can burn for days.

Hyde County officials reported Saturday a "Type 1" national incident team is coming in Saturday to assist with fire.

Hyde County officials say "those who must drive near the rea are advised to use extreme caution and be aware that firefighters may be coming and going from the highway. Those with allergies, sensitivities to smoke, and other breathing limitations should stay away from this area and be aware that a shift in wind direction would affect surrounding areas. Also be aware of limited visibility in the area."

Motorists traveling to Manteo and the Outer Banks area on Highway 264 East should turn left onto NC-94 North, also called Flying Pan Landing, near Lake Mattamuskeet. Then they can continue to Highway 64 near Columbia, and go east to Manteo.



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A wildfire in Dare County has closed down U.S. 264 and had burned an estimated 3,500 acres by Friday afternoon.

The Department of Transportation says the highway, a major thoroughfare to the Outer Banks, is shut down between Stumpy Point and the Hyde County line.

So far all of the acreage burned has been confined to the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.

Known as the Pains Bay Wildfire, federal officials say it was discovered Thursday. Bonnie Strawser with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service says this morning the fire jumped across all fire lines, including Highway 264. She said strong southwest winds are pushing the fire in the direction of Stumpy Point. She said there are just a few buildings anywhere near the fire.

Strawser says the fire is also spreading north toward the bombing range. She says that land has seven years of growth, and also contains some of the deepest peat on the refuge. A big concern is if the fire gets into the peat, as it did during the 2008 Evans Road Wildfire in Hyde, Tyrrell & Washington counties.

The feds say another concern is increased wind and lowering humidity. Strawser says wind gusts of 25 miles per hour are possible, with 35% humidity will allow the fire to spread easier.

It is believed the fire began several days ago by lightning and smoldered for several days before being noticed.

Motorists traveling to Manteo and the Outer Banks area on Highway 264 East should turn left onto NC-94 North, also called Flying Pan Landing, near Lake Mattamuskeet. Then they can continue to Highway 64 near Columbia, and go east to Manteo.



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Authorities are trying to contain a fire that so far has burned hundreds of acres of the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in Dare County.

Stacy Shelton with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service tells WITN News that the fire was discovered Thursday and so far has burned 225 acres. They believe the fire was started by lightning and could have been smoldering for a couple of day unnoticed.

She says 20 people from Fish & Wildlife and the NC Division of Forestry are battling the fire. Shelton says their plan was to perform back-burning of about 2800 acres so the fire could be contained by two ditches and U.S. 264.

But the fire has now jumped the highway and is now heading toward the bombing range.

Windy conditions and low humidity are not helping the firefighting efforts and so far no private property, nor any wildlife have been threatened.

Shelton says their biggest concern is smoke getting on U.S. 264 and they have placed signs on the highway to warn drivers.


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