Swamp Fire Sends Smoke Across Virginia

Thousands of acres are burning in southern Virginia, sending smoke northward across the state.

A lightning strike in the Great Dismal Swamp sparked a fire on August 4 that has grown to envelope 2,500 acres of the National Wildlife Refuge, which straddles the border between the Commonwealth and North Carolina.  Smoke from the fire has reached as far north as Calvert County.

The fire is located southwest of Lake Drummond off Interior Ditch Road, and so far remains within the boundaries of the refuge.  However, the size of the blaze is growing fast, more than doubling in size over the past two days.

Cindy Lane, a spokesperson for the refuge, said that bulldozers, helicopters, and both state and federal employees are part of a firefighting effort that continues to ramp up as the fire expands.

According to Lane, the fire is on the same site as a large 2008 blaze, and the area there still had debris and low-growing brush that has become fuel for the current fire.  The ground there is a peat bog, made up of decomposing plant matter that is combustible.  Lane said the ground itself is burning.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Fish and Wildlife Service issued a release saying that the fire is expected to continue to burn until the area receives six inches of rain over a period of a few days.  Officials said that the region has received little rainfall through the summer, leading to conditions for this fire to grow so fast.

Portions of the reserve in Virginia have been closed, and Dismal Swamp State Park in North Carolina has been shut completely.

Shifting winds on Tuesday are pushing the smoke eastward, sending most of the smoke out to sea now.

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