Contact: Howard Phillips- 252-796-3004 ext 226
June 7, 2008
Portions of Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge Reopen; Public Advised to Use Caution
Howard Phillips, Refuge Manager for Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, announced today that the Pungo Unit of the refuge has been reopened to the public. It was closed several days ago due to rapid spread of the Evans Road Fire onto the refuge, high wind speed, and the unpredictability of the wind direction. Phillips advises refuge visitors to use caution, pay attention to the wind speed and direction, and stay out of smoke as much as possible.
Pungo Unit contains approximately 12,500 acres of prime wildlife habitat. It is a popular spot for local residents and visitors alike to enjoy hunting (in season), wildlife observation, fishing, and other wildlife-related activities.
All other portions of Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge will remain closed until further notice.
The Evans Road Fire Break has been reinforced and is holding well. The Pungo Unit is 5 miles west of Evans Road. Access to the Pungo Unit is by NC Highway 45.
The Evans Road Fire, which started on private land south of Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge on June 1, is still raging. Total acreage for the fire is about 30,000. At this point in time, approximately 60% of the fire is on refuge land. However, winds have died down appreciably, and the spread of the fire has slowed.
Phillips added, "I'm not saying we won't have to close it again. But, for now, we feel it's safe for the public to come onto this unit of the refuge. If the wind picks up and rapid spread happens, we'll have to react accordingly."
In an advisory released June 4 by the Governor's Office, people were warned that breathing the smoke from this fire may cause health issues. Wesley Smith, Hyde County Health Director said, "People and their pets living in the immediate vicinity of the fire, or downwind of the smoke, should stay inside as much as possible. Anyone, especially those with chronic health problems, small children, and the elderly should consult their health care provider if they experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, wheezing, or persistent cough. Everyone should also be aware of the symptoms of exposure to harmful levels of carbon monoxide, which include headaches, dizziness, sleepiness or confusion."
Phillips points out that the same warning applies to refuge visitors. People should definitely avoid breathing smoke for extended period of time.
The Evans Road Fire is being managed by a NC Forest Service Incident Management Team, in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
For information and updates about the Evans Road Fire, visit: http://inciweb.org/state/34 or call the Information desk at 919-323-3219. For information about recreational opportunities on Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, visit: http://www.fws.gov/pocosinlakes or call 252-796-3004.