Managers of Pains Bay fire in N.C. conduct 11,000-acre burnout

Pains Bay fire burnout June 4
Pains Bay fire burnout June 4
Part of an 11,000-acre burnout on the Pains Bay fire, June 4 ease of Stomper Road. Photo: Cory Waters, USFWS

After a slopover a few days ago created some significant control problems, the managers of the 29,690-acre Pains Bay fire on the North Carolina coast decided that their best course of action to control the fire was to conduct an 11,000-acre burnout.

They began the operation at mid-afternoon on Saturday and completed the ignition at 11:00 p.m. It was ignited from a helicopter during the daylight hours and from the ground after dark. The fire is still moving through the interior of the burnout. The total size of the fire is 42,138 acres after the burnout

In the map below, the red and yellow dots represent heat sources detected by satellites during the 12 hours before 3:09 a.m. ET on June 5. Most of these dots appear to be created by the burnout. The red line was the perimeter when it was mapped at 5:45 a.m. MT, June 3, 2011.

Pains Bay fire map, 0109 6-5-2011
Pains Bay fire map, 3:09 a.m. ET, 6-5-2011

Here is a description of the operation written by the incident management team Sunday morning.


“Significant Burnout Operation Successful on Pains Bay Fire

With increased fire activity along the southern perimeter of the Pains Bay Fire, fire personnel knew they had to act quickly while the conditions were favorable.  A large section of the fire perimeter was within extremely dense pocosin vegetation with no roads to access it.  As the fire crossed out of that perimeter into unburned fuels yesterday morning, the decision was made early that a significant burnout was necessary.

Late in the evening, conditions were favorable to conduct the burnout, encompassing approximately 11,000 acres, bringing the fire perimeter to roads which can function as effective containment lines.  Many firefighters worked late into the evening to ensure the burnout was conducted safely and properly and to take action on any “spots” found outside of the containment lines.

Even with this burnout operation, everyone involved knows that we are not out of the woods yet.  The firefighters are working hard to contain the fire and react appropriately to changing conditions on the fireline.  Burning organic soils can smolder for months until extinguished, producing dense smoke at times.  A significant rain will be needed to completely extinguish much of the groundfire found in inaccessible portions of the fire.

As of this morning, Hwy 264 is still closed to all public traffic between Stumpy Point and Engelhard due to smoke and fire activity close to the road.  Security personnel are continuing to assess the road conditions and will reopen the road as soon as it is safe for the public.”


Note from Bill: the IMTeam advises that as of 1:50 p.m. ET June 5, US Highway 264 is now open to public traffic between Stumpy Point and Engelhard; however, it may be closed intermittently at any time due to smoke and/or fire suppression activity.

Update: On June 6 we posted more photos of the burnout. Excellent photos, by the way.)


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.