Pains Bay fire in NC, slowed by rain, increases to 20,000 acres


Pains Bay fire, Hwy 12 before it was burned-Rob Shackelford NCFS
Pains Bay fire, Hwy. 264. Photo: Rob Shackelford, NCFS

The Pains Bay fire on the North Carolina coast added another 5,000 acres yesterday, bringing its total to 20,954 acres in spite of receiving a small amount of rain over the last 24 hours. According to a RAWS weather station in the DARE Bomb Range just outside the fire, 0.07″ rain fell Sunday morning with another 0.01″ Monday at 11:00 a.m.

The map below shows the location of the fire, which is approximately 19 miles south of Manns Harbor, NC.

Pains Bay Fire map 1245 May 9
Map of the Pains Bay Fire, showing heat detected by satellites, updated at 12:45 p.m. MT, May 9, 2011. MODIS/Google

Smoke from the fire is severely impacting some of the local areas. The map below shows the distribution of the smoke from the Pains Bay fire (upper right on the map) as well as the Honey Prairie fire in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Georgia which has burned 61,000 acres.

Smoke from fires in North Carolina and Florida, May 9, 2011
Smoke from fires in North Carolina and Florida, May 9, 2011. NOAA

Here is an excerpt from an update on the Pains Bay fire from InciWeb, dated 10:30 p.m., May 8:

Today, fire behavior was reduced due to the light rains, cooler temperatures, and calmer winds. Firefighters used this advantage to strengthen and improve containment lines along Jackson, Long Curve, and Perimeter Roads in preparation for backburning, should it become necessary.

Later in the day, tractors plowed a line from Long Curve Road to Lake Worth in an effort to stop the fire’s movement to the north. Again, this line could serve as an anchor point for backfiring, should the need arise.

US Highway 264 continued to be closed for a 10-mile stretch between Stumpy Point and Engelhard. The Temporary Flight Restriction was increased to a 15 mile radius and 2,000′ ceiling. The Type 1 helicopter worked today doing water drops using an 800-gallon bucket. The smaller, Type 2 helicopter also made water drops today. Both were mostly working to extinguish hot spots within the interior of the fire and catch spotovers when they occurred.

The fire continued to produce large volumes of smoke; however, much of the smoke appeared to be from ground fire in the interior of the fire.

An article in the Outer Banks Sentinel points out that the State of North Carolina sold their air tanker, a CL 215 “Super Scooper” made by Bombardier, because of budget problems, and “it was too expensive to maintain”. The article gets several facts wrong, saying “It can drop more than three times as much water as any other plane”. According to the CalFire Firefighting Aircraft Recognition Guide, a CL 215 air tanker can hold 1,300 to 1,621 gallons, depending on the model. Large air tankers hold 2,000 to 3,000 gallons, while the largest, Evergreen’s 747 SuperTanker, holds 20,000 gallons. Most Type 1 helicopters can drop 1,000 to 2,600 gallons. The smallest Type 1, the Kaman “K-Max”, carries 700 gallons, while the largest, a Boeing 234 “Chinook”, has a capacity of 3,000 gallons.

Here is an excerpt from the article, where it discusses the fact that the fire is very near a bombing range:

…Firefighters have been told to not follow the fire into the Dare Bombing Range (DBR) target areas used by US Air Force and US Navy planes.

“If you see what looks like a pipe, don’t pick it up,” said Crews. “DBR will take over if it hits the target area where there is ordnance.” The practice bombs contain phosphorus which can be hazardous to those who come into contact with them.

Joe Lafferty, manager of the US Air Force portion of DBR, said that the gates across the bombing range roads have been opened to allow fire personnel access, and all training operations have been shut down. The US Navy portion of the range did not have a representative at the briefing.


A May 11 update on the fire can be found here.

Typos, let us know HERE, and specify which article. Please read the commenting rules before you post a comment.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

4 thoughts on “Pains Bay fire in NC, slowed by rain, increases to 20,000 acres”

  1. I’m gonna guess that the “three times as much water” comment was a misunderstanding of the fact that it can drop about three times as much water as the piston-engined Dromader SEATs available in NC. But I rarely read (or hear) a media story about wildfires without there being big factual errors.

    1. Or how about the CL-215 dropping “three times as much water ” as the average land based tanker in the same period of time ? With quick turn around times and a water source fairly close by , the 215 can drop a load on target every couple of minutes before the retardant tanker reloads and returns after what is usualy an hour’s time .


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