Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge
P. O. Box 329
Columbia, North Carolina 27925

Contact: Howard Phillips- 252-796-3004 ext 226

News Release

January 9, 2009

Evans Road Fire on Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge Officially Declared "Out"

On January 5, 2009, Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge Fire Management Officer Vince Carver declared the Evans Road Fire to be officially "out". This call was made two weeks after the last known hotspot had been extinguished. The Evans Road Fire began as a result of a lightning strike on private land south of Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge on June 1, 2008. The fire burned a total of 40,704 acres of land; 60% of the acreage was refuge property and the remaining was State or private land. Countless tons of peat were consumed by the fire, and suppression efforts cost just under $20 million.

A stilted tree's trunk, supported entirely by its roots, begins several feet above the ground.
Stilted trees, resulting from deep peat fire, remain as a visible reminder of the Evans Road Fire on Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. The fire was declared officially "out" on January 5, 2009.
Photo Credit: USFWS

Carver summarized the fire, "Early in the Evans Road Fire, there were some terrific runs - as great as 12,000 acres in one day. But after the first two weeks, the fire's footprint didn't change significantly. Unfortunately, there were extensive amounts of peat ignited and that presented many challenges for the firefighters. Over the duration of the fire, three Type 3 and six Type 2 Incident Management teams worked to suppress it. At one point during the height activity, there were more than 400 local, County, State and Federal personnel assigned to the incident. Besides paid firefighters, the teams received a lot of resources and support from organizations like NC Baptist Men and CISCO Systems."

Putting out the fire burning underground in dry peat soil was one of the greatest challenges for firefighters. Over 2 billion gallons of water were pumped from Lake Phelps, New Lake and the NW and SW Forks of the Alligator River. Using additional high-volume pumps, the water was then moved over 35 miles to the areas with the most severe ground fire to prevent the fire from spreading. Because of the fire’s size, it would have been impractical, if not impossible, to flood the entire area. But the pumping efforts, in combination with some heavy late-summer rains, extinguished most of the peat fire. The last hot spots were burning in a windrow associated with agricultural fields. Once the farmer harvested his crops, a bulldozer was used to dig out the fire . . .202 days after the first resources had arrived on scene.

Four firefighters comating peat fire with water hoses
Fire suppression activity during the Evans Road Fire tacked burning peat- a major challenge for firefighters.
Photo Credit: USFWS

Smoke from the Evans Road Fire impacted cities as far away as Raleigh and Charlotte. The town of Columbia was under health advisories for much of June and July due to the concentrations of fine particulates in the smoke. Two communities, Lake Phelps and Waterway Landing, were evacuated; however, no permanent homes were destroyed. Three mobile homes, used as hunting cabins, were burned. Other than a couple of heat-related injuries early in the initial attack, no serious injuries were reported.

The final After-Action Review for the Evans Road Fire will be held in January. Lessons learned on this fire will be shared with others in the firefighting community.

For more information on the Evans Road Fire, visit http://www.fws.gov/pocosinlakes/erf.html.

The pocosin lakes fire staff pose in front of an fws fire truck.
Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge fire staff formed the hub for the extensive fire suppression effort that involved as many at one time as 400 local, County, State and Federal personnel, as well as donated support from organizations like NC Baptist Men and CISCO Systems. Pictured above are (top row): Melvin Walston - Firefighter/Equipment Operator, Anthony Davis - Forestry Technician, Jon King - Forestry Technician; (standing): Frank Simms - Refuge Law Enforcement Officer, Shepherd Rawls - Firefighter/Equipment Operator, Harry Gibbs - Equipment Operator, David Kitts - Assistant Refuge Manager, Kenny Powell - Lead Forestry Technician, Vince Carver - Fire Management Officer; (kneeling): William Lowe - Firefighter/Equipment Operator, David Patrick - Firefighter/Equipment Operator, and Howard Phillips - Refuge Manager
Photo Credit: USFWS