RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – On August 4th a fire caused by lightning was reported in the Great Dismal Swamp in southeastern Virginia. Smoke was reported by people as far as northern Virginia. Shockoe Bottom even looked like a smokehouse at one point.
But the worst hit has been Suffolk. Intense fog combined with the smoke on several mornings, which made travel conditions even worse. Some of the days brought nothing but teary eyes and intense coughing.
The fire began near the southern edge of the swamp and prevailing southerly winds spread it northward, burning thousands of acres of land in the process. Winds directed the smoke in every direction across Virginia, which prompted the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to issue several code red and code purple air quality forecasts.
But what kept the fire going? The Great Dismal Swamp has over 100,000 acres of trees and wetlands. Many of those trees were taken down by Hurricane Isabel in 2003. There are also many dead trees lying around from the fire that occurred just three years ago. This dead plant and tree material helped fuel the fire allowed it to continue to smolder for weeks.
But wildfires are a normal part of nature. The dead plant material acts as an excellent fertilizer, allowing some plants to regrow almost immediately. The 1988 fire in Yellowstone that burned almost 800,000 acres allowed more plants and trees to regenerate to where they are today.