Fire Suppression

Aerial photo of fire

Refuge Fire History

  • There is a long history of large fires in the Great Dismal Swamp ecosystem. 
  • In the last century, large fire activity has often coincided with intensive logging activity and hurricane impacts. 
  • Deep organic soils make all fire operations a challenge. 
Fire Seasons
  • In the spring, early season lightning events provide the best chance for large fire growth under dry, windy conditions. 
  • In the summer months, more frequent lightning brings more starts, but less chance of large fire growth due to higher humidity and greenness of vegetation. 

 Recent Fire Seasons

  • 2004 – Corapeake Road Fire, type 2 incident (NC IMT) 
  • 2006 – two type 3 incidents (FWS IMT) 
  • 2007 – Fifteen lightning starts in one month time frame, including several multi-start days (FWS IMT) 
  • 2008 – Seven starts, including South 1 Fire 
Fire and a Changing Environment
  • Southeastern Virginia is at the edge of a distinctly southern, fire-adapted ecosystem. 
  • A long-term change in climate has the potential to push that ecosystem further north, altering vegetative composition and fire regimes. 
  • Drought cycles lead to longer fire seasons, more intense fires, and more severe fire effects. 
  • The mean average relative humidity as measured at the Great Dismal Swamp fire weather station has declined over 7% in the past 15 years, an indication that conditions are getting drier. 
  • Ground water levels measured near the refuge have dropped by more than 15 feet since 1985. This is in part due to development, agricultural and industrial use. Climatic changes would only exacerbate the decline.

South One Fire - 2008

  • Started June 9, 2008 
  • Declared out October 7, 2008 
  • Longest duration fire (121 days) in recorded VA state history 
  • Costs exceed $10 million – most expensive fire in state history 
  • 425 personnel committed at height of activities 
  • 2 National Type 2 IMT's committed 
  • 4884 acres – largest fire in history on Northeast Region U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands