Fire containment reaches 60 percent

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, June 17, 2008

By Staff
Five miles of containment lines left to be established
Staff Writer
PONZER — The Evans Road fire has been burning for more than two weeks and has left 41,000 acres of eastern North Carolina looking like a still photograph of a World War I battlefield.
The peat fire that has proven so difficult for firefighters to control and extinguish has left the ground pockmarked. It has burned the root systems from under pine trees, toppling them. As bleak as the picture looks from within the fire zone, reports from the N.C. Forest Service on Monday painted a brighter image.
The 514 forest service personnel fighting the fire had contained about 60 percent of the blaze as of Monday afternoon. Five miles of containment lines still need to be established in coming days, according to forest service reports.
The biggest issue firefighters and area residents have to deal with at the moment is dense smoke, which reduces visibility and can cause adverse health affects, Haire said.
A light rain began to fall on portions of the fire around 4:30 — not enough to extinguish the fire, but enough to help, according to forest service officials. More rain is forecast for coming days. The rain causes the fire to billow smoke and causes smoke in the upper atmosphere to lay down on the ground, which increase its volume and effects, Haire said.
The firefighting team is not waiting for the weather to extinguish the blaze. A pumping operation is underway to transport water from Phelps Lake into the burned area is now running around the clock. Thirty five pumps are moving 92,000 gallons per minute — 132 million gallons per day. That translates into two inches off the water level of Lake Phelps in nine days.
With more than 500 people fighting the fire, only two were injured in the first days of the battle. Both were heat-related injuries and neither was severe, according to forest service officials.
Don Carpenter, another spokesman for the forest service, said cooler temperatures and calmer winds forecast for this week bode well for efforts to contain the fire.
Temperatures are forecast to be in the mid-80s this week — a far cry from near 100-degree heat firefighters had to contend with last week. Lower temperatures also allow relative humidity to stay at higher levels during the day, which in turn allow moisture levels in the fire area to recover over night, according to Carpenter.