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Dismal Swamp Fires Creating Problems for Hampton Roads Residents

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Since August 4, 2011, when it was first spotted, the Great Dismal Swamp fire has been in the headlines nearly every day and has been affecting those of us living in the Hampton Roads area. And now, today, firefighting crews warn that winds might create a risk for falling trees and flare-ups in the area of the fire. According to the latest reports, the fire has now burned nearly 5,000 acres in Virginia and another 1,000 in North Carolina. It is around 15 percent contained, which means that the effects on our communities are going to continue for a while longer.

As has been reported previously, the fire is slow-moving and is burning through thick peat and as a result creating dense smoke. It is this smoke that has been a major concern for area residents to date and will continue to be a concern in the foreseeable future. For travelers, this means near-zero visibility on highways 13, 58, 460, and surrounding roadways when the winds shift just so. Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth and northern Chesapeake will have a lower smoke impact.

Health effects from the smoke have plagued the area since the start of the fire. In some areas, air quality will be unhealthy and that the public may experience mild health effects; those with respiratory problems may have more serious issues. If at all possible, residents should stay indoors to avoid the effects of the smoke if at all possible, particularly on days when the smoke is heaviest. Children, elderly, and individuals with respiratory or heart conditions are most at risk of severe health effects.

Some other tips for dealing with the smoke include:

  • Keeping your home’s windows and doors closed to prevent smoke from getting in your home
  • Using the recycle or re-circulate mode on home and car air conditioners
  • Avoid adding to the indoor air pollution such as burning candles, or using a gas stove. Even vacuuming can stir up particles and add to the pollution
  • If you have asthma or other respiratory problems, talk to your health care provider about steps you can take

While last weekend’s amount of rain wasn’t enough to stop the fire raging, hopefully more rain in the forecast will bring relief to the area and clear up our skies once again.

About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.