August 21, 2011

Great Dismal Swamp fire is dismal indeed

We should not SEE our air.

Smoke from the still-burning fire in the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge continues to invade the Tidewater Virginia area. It's been dense smoke in recent days, but a haze reappeared again this morning. Glad I mowed the lawn and did my weeding in the last two days during a brief respite. Code Orange alerts from Virginia's Department of Environmental Quality will keep me inside today.

photo by M.A. Moxon
We motored through this amazing wilderness in 2010 in our sailboat on our way back from the Florida Keys. This is what this portion of the Intracoastal Waterway looked like then.

More than 6000 acres have already burned in this remote area of Virginia and North Carolina. Hundreds of firemen are trying to contain the fire, as hopes for enough rain to douse it continue.

The fire has affected communities 400 miles away, depending on which way the wind blows. Roads have even been closed for short durations until the super smoke cleared out. Outdoor activities have been curtailed as well. Asthamtics and the elderly have been warned to stay indoors.

I really can't complain since we just returned from two weeks in the Pacific Northwest area where the air was just very cool, and NOT visible. So we missed the worst of the smoke and particulates from this fire that began on August 4, when lightning struck an area of the wildlife refuge that had been burned in the 2008 swamp fire. This year's drought dried out the new growth in that "burn scar" and the dead trees there are fueling the current fire. Scientists explain that the burning soil (marsh peat) is the source of most of the smoke and particulate matter. In some areas the fire is burning a foot and a half underground which causes trees to topple.

Click here to view a video and more from the Virginia Pilot.