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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Firefighters make headway in Brunswick, wildfire 52% contained

[Ed. Note: Monday’s piece was published originally around 4 p.m when containment was 10% and was updated around 8:30 p.m. to reflect new numbers]

BRUNSWICK COUNTY — As the N.C. Forest Service’s red management team continues to battle the fire at the Green Swamp Nature Preserve, crews are making progress with containment increasing.

Earlier Monday, the fire was 10% contained, with 15,741 acres burning and 80 personnel on site. By night, 96 crew members had it contained by 52% with 15,642 acres burning.

“Percent containment represents sections of fire line that pose no escape risk without further action from firefighters,” according to a press release from the N.C. Forest Service.

A light rain fell helping with the efforts, according to the evening update. The forecast shows rain chances increasing, with a little more than 2 inches possible by the end of the week. This will help with extinguishing the flames as well.

“Mop-up efforts” continue, which means keeping fuel at bay to prevent spread and clearing hot spots.

“The objective is to continue patrolling the fire and buttoning up any loose ends,” Deputy Incident Commander Shane Hardee said in a release. “Our job is not done until we feel confident there is no chance for escape.”

The fire began last Thursday after the N.C. Wildlife Commission conducted a controlled burn earlier in the week and found it had reignited. The N.C. Forest Service was called to manage it, which was burning 2,000 acres on Thursday and by Friday night, more than 11,000.

At first the state agency attempted to manage the fire directly with tractor plows. Yet, that wasn’t successful “due to the wet nature and deep organic soils that exist within the Green Swamp Nature Preserve.”

The department said bulldozer lines would have needed to be 6 miles long and getting emergency firefighters out safely could have presented dangerous challenges. The brush in the preserve has collected fuels for 70 years, having not been burned since the 1950s.

By Saturday, the wildfire reached 16,000 acres and continued growing by 500 acres into Sunday.

The forest service decided to switch gears to begin using strategic firing operations to contain the fire within the preserve, which had been 0% since Thursday. Firefighters did so by using the road’s edges surrounding it, including Highway 211, set as the perimeter.

Crews lit fires by hand at the road boundaries and dropped aerial ignition devices from a helicopter to pull the fire inward, into the preserve. It helped create a “mosaic burn,” according to operations section chief Kenny Griffin.

MORE: See Griffin explain in detail how N.C. Forest Service firing operations worked, in a video posted here.

NC Highway 211 remains closed between Little Macedonia and Camp Branch roads. Travelers can expect to see fire engines and large equipment on roads near the fire.

No injuries have been reported and no structures are threatened. Brunswick County’s air quality has decreased to code orange, according to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality air division. New Hanover remains in the yellow, while Pender, Columbus and Sampson counties are orange.

Tomorrow, DAQ is projecting Brunswick’s air quality to return to moderate (yellow).

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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