Whalebone Fire Burning in Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Contact: Outer Banks Group, (252) 473-2111
The 12-acre Whalebone Fire in South Nags Head was declared contained again today at noon by NPS officials. Spot fires on Monday and Tuesday crossed the line and burned 4 additional acres. The extremely dry conditions and strong breezes presented challenges to firefighters in controlling the fire and produced a large amount of smoke visible from miles away. US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) fire tractors worked to contain the fire. National Park Service (NPS) officials called in park firefighters along with additional firefighters and equipment from Fish and Wildlife Service and North Carolina State Forest Service. Nags Head Fire Department provided contingency support for the fire in the event that it escaped and threatened structures.
In addition to maintaining containment as a primary objective, the secondary objective is to suppress the fires burning in the dense shrub thickets and patches of unburned areas inside the interior sections of the fire that could blaze up and spot across the established lines. According to Eric Meekins, Firefighter Equipment Operator for Alligator National Wildlife Refuge, the crews were able to channel the spot fires through a series of maneuvers and tie the fire line back into the original fire. NPS and FWS firefighters crawled through dense poison ivy and briar infested shrub to suppress pockets of ground fire scattered throughout the 12-acre burned area. Firefighters will remain on the fire until the fire is declared controlled. Monitoring efforts will then continue until the area receives substantial rainfall or smoke is no longer observed for at least a week at which point the fire will be declared out.
The Whalebone Fire was reported at 1:40 pm on Sunday, August 13 with two acres burning into the Roanoke Sound just south of Whalebone Junction in Nags Head, NC. The area vegetation is comprised of dense pine, shrub and overgrown marsh fuels and exhibited intense flames and torching that could be seen from the nearby Nags Head Causeway. NPS Chief Ranger Norah Martinez stated, "With predicted strong southwest winds it was necessary to aggressively suppress the fire as soon as possible and protect the highways, businesses and residences outside the park boundary."
The cause of the fire is currently being investigated.
Did You Know?
The U.S.S. Monitor sank off Cape Hatteras during a storm in December 1862. The wreck's location was a mystery until 1973 when a research vessel found the ship 16 miles off the cape in 230 feet of water. In 1975, the Monitor was named the nation’s first National Marine Sanctuary.