July 17, 2008

Florida Team Provides Relief for Local Firefighters


By Ryan Hutchins

The Virginian-Pilot

A team from the Florida Division of Forestry took over operations this week at the wildfire burning at the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.

"In the past, North Carolina has come down to assist Florida with our fires, and we thought we'd return the favor," said Nigel Baker, spokesman for the new team, which will work a 14-day rotation.

It's providing relief to teams from the North Carolina Division of Forest Resources that have worked in rotations for some 13 weeks.

Staff usually work 14 to 15 hours a day for 14 days in a typical rotation, Baker said by phone Wednesday.

Morning briefings start at 7 a.m., but most have to drive from motels and hotels that can be some distance away.

Surface burning around the fire, which has burned 41,543 acres since starting July 1, has been minimal lately but "hot spots" do exist, Baker said.

Firefighters are no longer pumping water from Lake Phelps but continue to draw on the Alligator River, pushing water into streams and canals. The water is then irrigated to flood the fire in some areas or to run through sprinkler systems.

The management team uses helicopters and infrared technology to determine the best places to flood, Baker said. The team also speaks with residents and geologists about how the water will flow.

Ryan Hutchins, (252) 441-1627,

[email protected]

fire status

It's underground The fire has been staying mostly below the surface after recent rain. "It hasn't expanded as far as landwise," Baker said. "Depthwise, it has."

But it could resurface The surface burning could return, however, along with smoke. Analysts retrieved samples of peat soil Wednesday that had already dried from Tuesday's rain, according to a news release. The soil was "capable of supporting combustion."

Originally published by BY RYAN HUTCHINS.

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