NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) — The fifth day of work at the “Great Lake Fire” in the Croatan National Forest proved to be a good one Sunday.
In the latest update from the U.S. Forest Service – National Forests in North Carolina, which was posted on its Facebook page Sunday night, officials reported the fire remained at 36,000 acres consumed with 30% containment as of 7 p.m. Sunday.
Officials said Saturday’s rain, which added up to around half an inch, was beneficial in controlling the fire. While the northernmost fire progression is five miles southwest of Coastal Carolina Regional Airport and south of Countyline Road outside New Bern, officials said the rain stopped the forward progression temporarily to the fire.
Officials said work on the line construction around the uncontained areas of the fire was done on Sunday. The Southern Area Red Team, a Type 1 Instant Management Team, arrived Sunday and is now in place. The fire will enter unified command between the U.S. Forest Service and the N.C. Forest Service.
Scott Kennedy, the incident meteorologist during the fight against the forest fire, said the weather was beautiful on Sunday and that Saturday’s rain really helped suppress the fire activity.
Kennedy also said a back door front was expected to move through first thing in the morning. There may be some sprinkles and likely a cloudy day with the humidity higher. Winds would come from the north around 10-15 mph.
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.
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.
Firefighters from the US Forest Service, North Carolina Forest Service and Craven County fire departments were among those battling the blaze.
NO evacuation orders in New Bern
The City of New Bern posted to Facebook on Saturday a notice that no evacuation orders are in place. The post was made to address rumors of such plans.
“We are receiving many calls, texts & emails about evacuation rumors. These are not true. PLEASE NOTE: we are keeping a close eye on the wildfire & are staying in regular contact with emergency management. Should conditions change requiring evacuations at ANY point, we will post those orders to our social media sites, website, New Bern Alerts (you can still sign up at www.newbernnc.gov/newbernalerts) and via press release to local media outlets.”
Travelers on highways adjacent to the fire should proceed with caution, especially on Highways 17 and 70, where firefighters are operating. Expect smoke in the area, particularly in the mornings and evenings, officials said.
On Saturday, Craven County officials asked people not to travel on County Line Road past the Bluewater Rise subdivision. “This is a busy work zone for firefighters with a large amount of heavy equipment moving in and out,” officials said in a Facebook post Saturday night.
The fire has forced Catfish Lake Road to close. The Black Lake OHV area remained closed until further notice.
Air quality maps from several sources, including the NC Department of Environmental Quality, IQAir.com and AirNow.gov showed unhealthy breathing conditions continued for many parts of Eastern North Carolina. As of early Sunday, air quality reports were still unhealthy for Carteret, Craven, Jones and Onslow counties and moderate for Pamlico County. Other areas that had unhealthy air quality reports such as Bertie, Bertie, Pitt and Washington were reporting more normal air qualities.