By Outer Banks Voice on April 24, 2016
Efforts to battle the wildfire burning on the mainland received some help from the rainfall Friday and Saturday, but forecasts for the early part of the week suggest the fire will continue to grow.
13,773 acres of private and public land have been charred by the Whipping Creek Fire that surrounds the Long Shoal River straddling the Dare/Hyde county line between Stumpy Point and Englehard.
“Firefighters continue to construct and improve containment lines to support burnout operations and monitor the fire perimeter for flare-ups,” said Bonnie Strawser, visitor services director for the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.
143 firefighters and fire managers are assigned to the fire, primarily from the North Carolina Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the blaze was 48 percent contained as of Sunday morning.
Code orange air quality alerts continue on the Dare and Hyde mainland areas through Monday morning.
Just over an inch of rainfall Friday and early Saturday helped decrease the smoke and fire activity responsible for near zero visibility along U.S 264.
A pair of airplanes from Minnesota arrived in the area to start dropping water on the fire zone Sunday.
“The CL-415s will scoop water from the Alligator River and deliver it to the fire every six minutes,” Strawser said.
Because some of the water drops are taking place near U.S. 264 today, the road connecting Stumpy Point and Englehard will be closed to through traffic until around dusk on Sunday.
Although the fire footprint has received rain, fuels can dry quickly, according to Strawser.
“The recent decrease in visible fire and smoke is evident on the fire perimeter,” Strawser said. “However, changes in the weather can cause fire activity to increase.”
Rising temperatures, decreased humidity and changes in wind direction and speed are forecast for the coming week, with the only mention of rain over the fire zone for Tuesday night, Thursday night and during the day Friday.
On Saturday, the strategy was to continue to hold the northern perimeter from advancing north of Jackson and Maple Roads, and east of U.S. 264 from the Pains Bay area to the north toward Stumpy Point.
The fire is still not a threat to any residences nearby and has been concentrated mostly on some private land, state-owned game land, the wildlife refuge and the military-owned Dare Bombing Range.
Strawser said Sunday the estimated cost of suppression efforts to date is $505,242.00.