There are crazy-cool hiking conditions in southeast Virginia's Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge this week, as a sprawling blaze called the Lateral West Wildfire paints the landscape with a weird, yellowish haze. There are also bears! (Follow the jump for ursus entertainment and footage of the smoky skies of Dismal.)
The 3,200-acre fire, likely started by lightning and exacerbated by the state's reigning drought conditions, is eating up new vegetation in the "fire scar" created by 2008's dreaded South One Wildfire, according to Inciweb. Nearly 100 firefighters are wrestling the conflagration with hand tools and tracked equipment and bucket-equipped helicopters, which must be delightful work on a hot day like today.
The folks at Inciweb report that the soil in the park is quite dry and unswamplike and covered with brush and dead trees. In other words, perfect for fire expansion. "These fuels [are] likely to burn until there is at least six inches of rain over a period of a few days," they say. "Dense smoke will likely be a public health and safety concern for the foreseeable future. Several closures are in place." A coastal storm of the kind that finally killed the South One blaze sure could help right about now. Maybe this disorganized system near Florida will decide to move north?
The smoke from the Lateral fire is clearly visible from space. The GOES-13 satellite, operated by NASA and NOAA, caught a brown plume wriggling out to the Atlantic from Aug. 8 to Aug. 10. Hampton, Norfolk and Virginia Beach all got a taste of the acrid smoke, which yesterday wafted up to the D.C. area as well, and communities around the swamp are under Code Orange air-quality alerts. This video is composited from GOES-13 shots taken every 15 minutes:
B. Bodnar caught some nice views of smoke forming a giant mushroom over the waters of Lake Drummond. Plus, a bear and a skink make appearances:
And this here video from steveunlocked shows how the fire is creating the illusion of a massive storm hovering above the swamp. He says: "It was starting to look like a deadly hurricane was fast approaching"....