NEW BERN, N.C (WNCT) — A community meeting is scheduled for Thursday evening as officials discuss more about the Croatan National Fire that broke out on April 19.
The U.S. Forest Service – National Forests in North Carolina said Thursday morning the fire remains at 32,400 acres burned with 30% still contained. There were 206 total personnel, four helicopters, 16 Type-6 engines, 19 Type-2 tractor plow units, one fixed-wing aircraft, two tracked vehicles and two ambulances on the scene working on Thursday.
Officials said in the Thursday news release that “the fire is suspected to be human-caused and is still under investigation.”
Updates will now be given each morning. There will no longer be evening updates, U.S. Forest Service officials announced Wednesday night in its latest report.
Crews reported some smoldering fires came to life in the extreme northern and southern ends of the fire on Wednesday. Water drops from helicopters extinguished those fires. Firefighters also worked to reinforce firelines west and south of the fire to protect Weyerhauser timber.
Officials also said new contingency lines to the northeast of the fire were created to increase the protection of nearby communities and the Coastal Carolina Regional Airport.
Community meeting Thursday
An in-person community meeting is slated for Thursday from 6-7 p.m. at Creekside Elementary School, located at 2790 Landscape Dr. in New Bern. It will also be hosted via Facebook Live at https://fb.me/e/5RLxG0dUj.
The fire is burning pocosin swamp and mixed fuels. It is burning within the imprint of the 2012 Dad Fire, which officials said burned 21,331 acres. No structures have been lost and none are currently threatened, officials said.
Operational resources include personnel from the U.S. Forest Service, N.C. Forest Service, Craven County Emergency Services, Jones County Emergency Services, the U.S. Marine Corps and Weyerhaeuser Corporation.
The cause remains under investigation.
Firefighters continue to construct new primary and secondary contingency lines to increase protection on the north end and help protect surrounding communities. They are also reinforcing firelines west and south of the fire to protect forested areas and Weyerhaeuser timberlands. Firefighters continue to flood areas in the southeast of the fire to saturate organic soils where the fire is burning deep into the ground. They are raising the water level in canals by blocking culverts to do this. The eastern side of the wildfire has shown little smoke during reconnaissance flights, so is in monitoring status. We are using drones to detect heat with infrared cameras. We continue to work closely with the National Weather Service and cooperating agencies. Operational resources include personnel from the U.S. Forest Service, N.C. Forest Service, and Weyerhaeuser Corporation. Initial attack firefighters assigned to the incident are on standby and are ready to respond to new fire starts on and around the Great Lakes Fire.
Natural resource experts are on scene to provide advice and make sure that suppression efforts do not destroy the beautiful natural resources on the Croatan National Forest. They evaluate plowed firelines in advance to reduce damage to wildlife and endangered plants. The advisors also work with air operations separating helicopter dip sites to reduce the spread of alligator weed from one part of the fire to another. They also have a plan to clean equipment to reduce the spread of noxious plants from one area to another.
Weather and fire behavior
Rainfall varied tremendously overnight with the south end receiving only .06” while the north end received .67”. This is still not enough to extinguish the fire. Relative humidity is predicted at 65-70% with light winds out of the east. Expect clearing and drying through the afternoon although an isolated shower cannot be ruled out. A strong low-pressure system will impact the area Friday bringing periods of showers and thunderstorms. Some storms could bring gusty winds and hail. Another strong front is expected to impact the area on Sunday. Fire behavior is not expected to change due to the weather.
Officials said they are appreciative of the offers but they don’t have the capacity to process and store the donations on site. In lieu of donations to the Great Lakes Fire incident, officials asked the public to consider making a monetary donation to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.
Updates on air quality can be found from several sources, including the NC Department of Environmental Quality, IQAir.com and AirNow.gov. Air quality remained poor for counties directly impacted by the fire: Carteret, Craven, Jones and Onslow counties.
You can also find air quality information from the NCDEQ at these links:
Smoke, wildfires and prescribed burns
Scope of the fire
The fire was first detected Wednesday evening, according to the United States Forest Service. Crews worked to put in containment lines around the fire, which was around 50 acres at the start. Limited growth happened on Thursday before the reported 7,000 acres early Friday.
By midday, the fire had reached 12,000 acres and was up to 17,000 acres later on Friday as primary and secondary containment lines were established on the eastern, southern and western sides of the fire, Parker said. That was done with an emphasis to protect private land to the north.
By the end of Friday, the fire had consumed 35,000 acres. It has grown five times its reported size of 7,000 acres, which was reported on Friday morning.
Monday night and Tuesday morning, the number of acres burned was adjusted to 32,400 after an ariel view of the area.
Croatan National Forest covers 160,000 acres and is home to a number of rare carnivorous plants like the Venus fly-trap, sunder and pitcher plant. It is remote and is bordered on three sides by bodies of water, including Bogue Sound.