Dismal Swamp fire 99% out thanks to Irene

Ten to fifteen inches of rain from Hurricane Irene seemed to accomplish what hundreds of firefighters had struggled to do … almost douse the Great Dismal Swamp fire that had burned for weeks along the border of Virginia and North Carolina. Although there are still hot spots in the five-foot-deep peat soil, reports are that 99% of the fire is out.

John Bearer, a spokesman for the team handling the fire, commented to Pilot Online:

During the last big fire there in 2008, it took four months to get to the level of progress that’s been made on this fire in less than a month, Bearer said. This fire was sparked by lightning and first spotted Aug. 4.

That has to be great news for those affected by the smoke from the 6,000-acre fire that had fouled air quality and penetrated the region including Richmond and the Norfolk-Virginia Beach areas. Before the hurricane, the fire was considered 35% contained.

As Irene approached, Tim Craig, management officer of the Fish and Wildlife Service, cautioned, “Eight inches of rain will not put the fire out, but it will buy us time to clear the way through the downed trees back to the fire zone after the storm.”

Even though the swamp that began to burn in early August continues to smolder in some areas, the rain definitely helped, according to the Dismal Swamp Refuge Manager Chris Lowie:

“It’s gonna be a real skeleton crew because we don`t need the 470 people and 120 tractors anymore. So the hurricane did help us out a lot,” says Lowie.

Thanks to Irene, it will take a lot less work to get the fire out once and for all.

A news outlet asked if any good had come from Irene. The short answer is “yes.”

Cross-posted at SWAC Girl