Smoke today, rain this weekend?

Buildings in downtown Raleigh are partially covered by smoke from a Dare County wildfire (Chopper 11 HD)

May 10, 2011 4:32:59 PM PDT
That smell of smoke in the air around the Triangle is likely thanks to a large wildfire burning on the North Carolina coast.

The National Weather Service says the wind direction has changed since Monday, and the smoke is now moving inland from the fire in Dare County.

ABC11 has received calls and emails from folks around the Triangle asking about the smell, which many said seemed like the scent of burning plastic.

Garner resident Tiffany Gardner says the smell has been a bother

"It is a little bit annoying. I have allergies, and I think sometime I smell something and I could not stop sneezing as soon as I woke up," she said.

But one jogger in Raleigh told ABC11 it's different for him.

"I kind of smell something in the air, but it doesn't bother my jogging that much," said Crowell Bowers.

The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources said Tuesday's air quality is a Code Yellow, meaning a warning for people sensitive to poor conditions outside.

NC State professor Dr. Viney Aneja says depending on the weather coupled with smoke, air quality conditions could soon worsen for Wake County.

"For Wake County right now this minute, we need to be very cautious we need to be following the smoke and the wind direction that will dictate if we go to Code Orange," Aneja said.

The poorest air quality is Code Red. That's something people in Dare County and surrounding counties are already dealing with right now.

Firefighters battle blaze

Firefighters continue to try to contain the Dare County blaze in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.

The wildfire has burned about 21,000 acres, including thousands of acres of peat bog.

The cause of the fire discovered last Thursday has not been determined.

Fire investigators have not been able to verify a cause for the blaze because the area is too hot to safely enter, said Bill Sweet, public information officer for the national incident response team that is coordinating the firefighting effort. Possibilities range from random lightning strikes to arson.

The refuge is largely forested wetlands and bog, which creates a denser amount of smoke than a typical wildfire, Mather said.

Firefighters have been dumping water from aircraft onto the fire and using heavy machinery to clear potential fuel from the surrounding area. More than a dozen fire engines from area companies are also on site.

Sweet said they have the fire about 40 percent contained.

Winds have pushed the fire in the direction of Stumpy Point, a fishing village of about 1,000 residents. Sweet said firefighters spent most of Tuesday trying to protect the town with a back-burn, a technique that uses a separate, controlled fire to combat the original fire. When they meet, both fires go out, Sweet explained.

The burn-out started Monday but had to be abandoned that afternoon when winds shifted and made the effort risky, Sweet said.

U.S. Highway 264 remained closed between the towns of Stumpy Point and Englehard Tuesday.

Rain possible today, this weekend

Meanwhile, the ABC11 weather team says we have a chance of showers and storms returning this afternoon with a front off to the west and a disturbance moving in. Highs will be in the upper 70s to near 80. Tonight will bring more clouds and a chance at some overnight showers and thunderstorms.

Wednesday will be a dry day with partly sunny skies and highs in the mid 70s to near 80.

Our rain chances increase again Friday as a new frontal system has the chance of getting stalled over North Carolina bringing a good chance of storms Saturday, Sunday and possibly into Monday.

Click here for the 7-day forecast

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