June 17, 2008

New Fire Starts in Great Dismal Swamp

A lightning strike during a storm sparked a second fire Tuesday in the Great Dismal Swamp in eastern Virginia.

Catherine Hibbard with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the new fire was only about 20 acres Tuesday morning, the Newport News Press reported. But she said winds sent the flames into a stand of Atlantic white cedars that firefighters were trying to preserve.

The small fire is south of a 2,500-acre fire that began June 9. Smoke from that fire was so heavy it set off alarms in homes in Chesapeake, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

The larger fire was about 20 percent contained Tuesday with 322 firefighters on the ground and tankers dropping water from the air.

The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge covers 111,000 acres on the Virginia-North Carolina border.

In North Carolina, a fire in the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge was reported to be 60 percent contained, WECT-TV said. That fire began with a lightning strike June 1.

The Pocosin Lakes and Dismal Swamp fires are tenacious because the area includes a lot of peat, organic soil that burns readily enough to be used for fuel.