Hyde County smoke persists

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 6, 2008

The saying &uot;where there’s smoke, there’s fire&uot; is usually true, but it doesn’t apply in this case.

Not here, anyway.

Over the past few days, a pall of smoke has hung over the Roanoke-Chowan area.

However, its origin lies not in a fire within local counties, but rather a huge wildfire in Hyde County.

A change in wind direction late Thursday night brought the heavy smoke into Bertie, Hertford, Northampton and Gates counties.

North Carolina public health officials warned people in areas near the fire should take precautions to avoid breathing the smoke.

&uot;Smoke from the fire could contain harmful levels of air pollutants, especially carbon monoxide and particle pollution, which can be unhealthy to breathe and contribute to haze and other air quality problems,&uot; Hyde County officials stated in a press release.

The statement continued, &uot;Smoke exposure may cause coughing, eye, nose and throat irritation.

Persons at increased risk of health effects from smoke exposure include those with angina, heart disease, asthma, and other respiratory problems.

Pregnant women, elderly people, smokers, and people who exercise outdoors are also at higher risk from smoke exposure.&uot;

As of 5 p.m. Friday, the massive 28,000-acre fire was spread across Hyde, Washington and Tyrell counties and was listed as only being 30 percent contained.

Reportedly, firefighters are having trouble containing the fire and extinguishing it due to the heavy brush and swampy area in which it is located.

A burn ban was put into effect at noon on Friday for the region surrounding the fire and will last until further notice.

People in smoky areas are urged to stay indoors until the air clears.

&uot;If (the) smoke is particularly bad, it’s a good idea to stay indoors with windows closed or to relocate until the situation improves,&uot; stated Keith Overcash, director of the North Carolina Division of Air Quality.

Friday, Governor Mike Easley declared a state of emergency in Hyde, Tyrrell and Washington counties due to the wildfire.

With the order’s issuance, all state and local agencies were commanded to deploy the necessary resources and personnel to protect the public.

The fire began June 1 with a lightening strike in Hyde County and rapidly expanded to the north and northeast throughout the week due to the hot, dry conditions and changing winds.

Currently, 160 firefighters are on the ground working to contain the blaze, including forestry officials from Hertford and Bertie counties.