The blaze in the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge has burned up to 10,000 acres, and fire officials said it's likely to continue growing because of hot and dry conditions.
Firefighters have started to establish new containment lines to the north and east of the blaze, hoping that access roads will help corner the fire. The fire jumped previous lines Tuesday night and has been threatening the area south of Lake Phelps.
Emergency workers said they had evacuated a community around Lake Phelps, telling 39 homeowners to leave.
Management Coordinator Tony Spencer said Hyde, Tyrrell, and Washington counties are all under a state of emergency. He also said unless there's a very large rainfall, the fire and smoke may last for two months, adding that ash from the fire has been reported 75 miles away.
Meanwhile, state air quality officials cautioned people who live near the blaze to avoid breathing smoke.
"People and their pets living in the immediate vicinity of the fire, or downwind of the smoke, should stay inside as much as possible," said Wesley Smith, Hyde County's health director.
The refuge includes 110,106 acres in Hyde, Tyrrell, and Washington counties.
Officials said the blaze started by lightning on Sunday.