Smoke From Great Dismal Swamp Fire Reaches Maryland
Calls pouring into local fire departments; officlas say not to worry.
Updated with details:
A strong burning smell from smoke wafting through Maryland is from an unprecedented wildfire raging 200 miles away through the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia and North Carolina, authorities said Saturday.
The smell prompted multiple calls to local departments in Maryland from citizens concerned about fire. But officials say the smell is from the blazes smoldering in thick, organic soil or peat in the largest fire in the history of the federal refuge, destroying an estimated 5,600 acres of land in Virginia and North Carolina as of Saturday.
Capt. James Rostek, spokesman for the Anne Arundel County Fire Department, told Edgewater-Davidsonville Patch that a change in wind direction had brought smoke back to Maryland regions, sparking numerous calls to authorities asking about fire. Rostek asked that citizens call the fire department’s emergency 911 line Saturday only if they see an actual fire.
The Maryland Emergency Management Agency issued a release saying the fire was causing an unpleasant smell and haze to spread across portions of the state, reported Perry Hall Patch.
There were calls as far north in Maryland as Aberdeen in Harford County and people in Pennsylvania were smelling smoke as well.
"I just thought someone was having a barbecue," Terence Tse, 22, a Johns Hopkins graduate student told The Baltimore Sun. Tse, who with two fellow students went ahead with their plans for a 35- or 40-mile bike ride, added, "It doesn't seem that bad."
Before rain fell in the area Saturday, the Baltimore police department issued a release saying, "Northeasterly jet streams and continuous winds have blown remnants of smoke from these major fires to our region and have permeated many Baltimore communities." Residents were urged to keep windows and doors closed and those with respiratory illnesses affected by smoke fumes were being encouraged to seek medical attention.
Hundreds of firefighters were battling the Virginia and North Carolina blazes, which are worse than the 2008 fire that burned about 4,900 acres at the refuge. The firefighters are setting fire to vegetation in an effort to prevent the blaze from spreading and they also began flooding ditches and canals in an effort to bring the situation under control, said the Newport News, VA, Daily Press.
The latest fire was caused by Aug. 4 lightning at the 170-square-mile bog where archaeological digs have been conducted by researchers studying settlements where they believe Native Americans once lived as well as people escaping slavery before the Civil War.