More smoke descends on area

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 14, 2008

A third fire – unrelated to forest fires in Hyde County, N.C., and the Great Dismal Swamp – has been blamed for the blanket of smoke over Franklin and parts of Southampton County on Friday.

Some 50 acres caught fire Friday morning near Holland, off O Kelly Drive, triggering the most recent wave of smoke.

The Franklin-Southampton Chamber of Commerce issued an alert from city officials shortly after noon to reassure residents that &uot;the wind direction is covering the city with a heavy layer of smoke&uot; from the Holland fire. &uot;There is no need to be alarmed.&uot;

The fire near Holland follows a significant fire in the Great Dismal Swamp on the Suffolk/Chesapeake border that has been affecting air conditions in this area.

The fire in the swamp started late Monday when a timber contractor’s machinery caught fire.

Fire engines, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft are being used to attack the flames. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Virginia State Department of Forestry, The Nature Conservancy, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, the North Carolina Department of Forest Resources, Chesapeake Fire Rescue and Suffolk Fire Rescue all have responded to the fire.

Currently, Railroad Ditch, West Ditch and Interior Ditch are closed to the public, but the remainder of Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is open.

Saturday bus tours from Suffolk through the refuge are canceled until further notice. Most of the refuge is open to the public, including the Washington Ditch Boardwalk.

There is a temporary flight restriction up to 3,000 feet above the fire.