MAGNOLIA, N.C. (WNCT) – Officials closed a portion of U.S. Hwy. 117 South Tuesday morning after “several motor vehicle accidents” happened amid hazardous conditions stemming from what was determined to be a prescribed fire nearby.

The closed portion extends from Sheffield Road near Magnolia to Brooks Quinn Road near Rose Hill. A Code Orange Air Quality Alert was issued Tuesday for Duplin, Wayne and Lenoir counties.

The accidents started happening at approximately 5:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, according to a Duplin County Emergency Management press release. At approximately 6:30 a.m., Fire Marshal Matthew Barwick said part of the highway had been closed because dense smoke in the area had “caused the road to be impassible.”

In an update released later Tuesday morning, officials said emergency crews worked to close the highway after the accidents. North Carolina Forest Service, NC Department of Transportation and State Highway Patrol officers assisted with the emergency response. Rose Hill-Magnolia Elementary School was dismissed early at 10 a.m. due to smoke entering the school buildings and grounds.

Officials determined that the smoke was coming from a “legal, prescribed fire on private property that occurred over the weekend, which continued to burn,” according to the press release.

“Weather conditions such as low relative humidity and light winds have caused the issuing smoke to remain in the area,” the release says. “No structures were involved in the fire, and no serious injury has been reported.”

By midday, officials told WNCT’s Claire Curry the conditions had improved but the issue could worsen later in the evening and possibly into the next few days until it rains, which was expected later in the week.

“At sunset, we do anticipate the smoke conditions to come back, which may or may not impair in visibility,” Barwick said. “So for safety concerns, we feel like we need to shut the road back down. We will know when that time comes.”