Great Dismal Swamp Fire Could Burn For Weeks

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    NEWSLETTERS

    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    In this image provided by NASA the GOES-13 satellite captured a visible image of the thick brown smoke streaming from the Lateral West Fire burning in the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Virginia Wednesday Aug. 10, 2011. The image shows a triangular shaped plume of light brown smoke streaming to the south and southeast from the Lateral West Fire. On August 9, smoke from the fire reached the Washington, D.C. area and is now blowing south with the change of wind direction. A crew of 20 wildland firefighters trained by the Delaware Forest Service is being deployed Thursday to help battle the fire in the Great Dismal Swamp National Refuge in Virginia. (AP Photo/NASA)

    Although rains have drenched the East Coast this weekend, the rainfall did little to slow the Great Dismal Swamp Fire that has been sending smoke over Virginia and Maryland.

    Firefighting teams have also begun pumping water from Drummond Lake onto the fire, but authorities warned that this operation would require time to yield any notable result.

    "Even if six inches of rain fell in a week," Timothy Craig, the Great Dismal Swamp Wildlife Refuge's fire management officer said, "we would still have to run the pumps for a month to put out this fire."

    That's because the fire is burning the peat of the swamp, transforming the ground into deep, extremely hot embers.  Firefighters have faced danger from falling trees, because as the heat penetrates the ground and spreads, roots are consumed and trees topple.

    By the weekend, four helicopters, 26 fire engines, and 362 personnel had been thrown at the fire-containment effort.  The initial rapid spread has been checked, but on Sunday, 6,156 acres had been affected.  Fire teams say that still, only ten percent of the blaze has been contained.

    A Code Orange air quality alert has been issued for parts of Southern Virginia until midnight on Sunday, meaning that the level of fine particulates in the air is harmful to sensitive groups of adults, children, and seniors.

    That smoke has billowed northward across Virginia and as far as Maryland.  Wind currents over the Chesapeake Bay provide a channel for the ash-heavy smoke to travel, and reports of smoke have come in as far north as Annapolis and Maryland.