Gates County monitoring fires

Published 4:30 pm Friday, August 12, 2011

Fires which have scorched more than 5,700 acres in the Great Dismal Swamp do not pose an immediate threat to citizens of Gates County.

Gates County Emergency Management Director Billy Winn said Friday his office was monitoring the situation.

“Things are changing hour by hour,” Winn said. “It’s still a couple of miles away at the shortest distance and it’s not traveling in that direction. Even if it were, it is miles of dense hardwoods and cypress swamp.”

Winn said he was meeting regularly with those leading the firefighting efforts to make sure the citizens in Gates County had ample notice should there be danger.

“We are being cautious, but not alarmist,” he said. “We are staying on top of the situation so when the time comes, we will be prepared.”

Winn said no fires were in Gates County, but citizens should plan to be careful as they travel because smoke was a serious factor on both U.S. 158 and N.C. 32. He said the dynamics of the fire and winds meant the smoke could shift on an irregular basis.

“Because of the winds, the smoke may be in Hertford County today and Currituck County tomorrow,” he said. “It is something we have to keep a watchful eye on.”

Winn said Gates County citizens should remember the smoke was not going to be just a short-term issue. He said the county’s citizens could be dealing with it for more than a month.

As for the coming weekend, Winn suggested citizens keep an eye on any alerts that may be issued.

“I think people should be cautious and monitor alerts issued by the National Weather Service,” Winn suggested. “We had a Code Red yesterday, which means those with asthma and other breathing conditions should be extremely careful.”

The Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald ( and Suffolk News-Herald ( will continue to follow the story.

Winn also said he would continue to keep the Gates County, NC Emergency Management page on Facebook updated throughout the weekend with any news or updates.