Wildfire grows to 5,293 acres in North Carolina as containment nears 50%, state says

The wildfire that erupted March 23 in eastern North Carolina is continuing to grow, even as dozens of firefighters work to contain the raging blaze, according to the N.C. Department of Agriculture.

It’s estimated the ”Last Resort Fire” in Tyrrell County covers 5,293 acres, up from 5,200 acres, the state reported in a news March 28 release.

The fire is 48% contained, but firefighters find themselves facing a unique challenge. Common fire retardants like salt water can harm the area’s unique wetland habitat known as the pocosins, experts say.

“Overnight infrared (IR) drone flights revealed significant heat in the fire area. IR flights will continue to evaluate the extent of ground fire as personnel develop a plan to utilize nearby fresh water sources to minimize loss of organic soil,” officials said.

“Both fire and salt water will destroy peat soils. Protecting pocosins is foundational to healthy ecological and human communities. To protect the organic peat soils, reduce smoke impacts and prevent reburn, irrigation systems are being staged for water pumping operations to begin in the coming days.”

The fire’s origin has been linked to a debris burn on a private land that “escaped containment,” officials said.

No injuries have been reported and the fire is not a threat to structures in the region, officials said.

Thick smoke is making travel “tedious” in the area, officials said. Travelers are encouraged to allow for extra driving time or take alternate routes.

A temporary flight restriction has been issued within five miles of the fire, officials said.

Authorities estimated the fire covered 5,800 acres on March 25, but reported “more accurate mapping” revealed it was closer to 5,200 acres.

More than 70 firefighters with the N.C. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are working to control the blaze, officials said.

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