NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) — Crews spent the seventh day battling the Croatan National Forest Fire but there were no changes to the numbers as far as progress made in putting the fire out.
The fire remains at 32,400 acres burned with 30% still contained. More smoke was seen in the area but nothing like was seen last Friday when the fire raged from 7,000 acres burned to over 30,000 acres.
Officials said 184 toal personnel, four helicopters, 15 Type-6 engines, 22 Type-2 tractor plow units, one fixed-wing aircrat and one tracked vehicle worked on the fire. Crews continued to strengthen containment lines and monitored for smoke. Reconnaissance flights looked for heat signatures within the fire interior.
The fire is burning pocosin swamp and mixed fuels. It is burning within the imprint of the 2012 Dad Fire, which officials said burned 21,331 acres. No structures have been lost and none are currently threatened, officials said.
Operational resources include personnel from the U.S. Forest Service, N.C. Forest Service, Craven County Emergency Services, Jones County Emergency Services, the U.S. Marine Corps and Weyerhaeuser Corporation.
An in-person community meeting is slated for Thursday from 6-7 at Creekside Elementary School, located at 2790 Landscape Dr. in New Bern. It will also be hosted via Facebook Live.
The cause remains under investigation.
Operations Section Chief Shawn Nagle said Tuesday morning that work would continue to center around the northern line of the fire, which is 2-3 miles from the nearest residential area and about five miles from Coastal Carolina Regional Airport in New Bern. While most of the containment is on the eastern side of the fire, officials continue to work to make sure the containment lines hold in the Pollocksville area of Jones County and the Brices Creek area of New Bern to the north.
Nagle said the western containment lines, which are protecting private timberland owned by N.C. State and Weyerhauser, are also holding and will be watched.
He asked anyone who had to travel in the area to use caution, drive with their lights on and slow down. They also asked that nobody goes around the barricades in place.
A Temporary Flight Restriction was still in place over the fire area.
In addition to updates being provided on the U.S. Forest Service – National Forests in North Carolina Facebook page, a number has been established where you can call for more information: (252) 285-6174. An email address is 2023.GreatLakes@Firenet.gov.
Travelers on highways adjacent to the fire area should proceed with caution, especially on Hwy. 17 and Hwy. 70. Officials said to continue to expect smoke in the area, particularly in the mornings and evenings. More travel information could be found at DriveNC.gov.
The fire has forced Catfish Lake Road to close. The Black Lake OHV area remained closed until further notice.
Craven County officials asked people not to travel on County Line Road past the Bluewater Rise subdivision.
Updates on air quality can be found from several sources, including the NC Department of Environmental Quality, IQAir.com and AirNow.gov. Air quality remained poor for counties directly impacted by the fire: Carteret, Craven, Jones and Onslow counties.
You can also find air quality information from the NCDEQ at these links:
Smoke, wildfires and prescribed burns
Scope of the fire
The fire was first detected Wednesday evening, according to the United States Forest Service. Crews worked to put in containment lines around the fire, which was around 50 acres at the start. Limited growth happened on Thursday before the reported 7,000 acres early Friday.
By midday, the fire had reached 12,000 acres and was up to 17,000 acres later on Friday as primary and secondary containment lines were established on the eastern, southern and western sides of the fire, Parker said. That was done with an emphasis to protect private land to the north.
By the end of Friday, the fire had consumed 35,000 acres. It has grown five times its reported size of 7,000 acres, which was reported on Friday morning.
Monday night and Tuesday morning, the number of acres burned was adjusted to 32,400 after an ariel view of the area.
Croatan National Forest covers 160,000 acres and is home to a number of rare carnivorous plants like the Venus fly-trap, sunder and pitcher plant. It is remote and is bordered on three sides by bodies of water, including Bogue Sound.