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Wildfire in the Croatan: 7,000 acres burning, poor air quality halts after school activities

A wildfire is burning in the Croatan National Forest between Maysville and Havelock, and officials with the North Carolina Forest Service say smoke may impact the area for days.

United States and North Carolina Forest Service crews are fighting the Great Lake wildfire on the ground and in the air and officials say the fire is not close to any public roads or homes. It is estimated to cover about 7,000 acres.

An incident commander with the forest service said smoke will be visible and will impact the Catfish Lake and Great Lake Road areas, and could also cause limited visibility for drivers on U.S. 70.

Black Lake OHV area is closed.

In addition, officials at Havelock schools have canceled all after school activities, including sports, for Friday because of the poor air quality from the fire.

The fire is already bigger than last month's Last Resort fire in Tyrell County, which burned 5,280 acres required 438 million gallons to control.

Satellite photos show smoke traveling northward, with some reports of smoke being seen as far as Greenville and as far east as Kinston. In New Bern, the air is hazy and smoky, the sky tinted orange, and the air quality poor.

As of 4:45 p.m., the North Carolina Division of Air Quality's air quality index reports Craven and Jones Counties at a level purple, or "very unhealthy" for all people. Pitt, Beaufort and Pamlico counties are an "unhealthy" level — level red — which means some people, especially sensitive groups, may have more serious health effects.

Tomorrow's air quality for Craven and Jones is forecasted to remain at level purple as firefighters continue combatting the fire. A passing cold front late tomorrow should act to push this smoke to the east.

*updated 4:50 p.m. on April 21.

Annette is originally a Midwest gal, born and raised in Michigan, but with career stops in many surrounding states, the Pacific Northwest, and various parts of the southeast. She has been involved in the media industry in eastern North Carolina for more than three years. An award-winning journalist and mother of four, Annette moved to ENC to be closer to family – in particular, her two young grandchildren. It’s possible that a -27 day with a -68 windchill in Minnesota may have also played a role in that decision. In her spare time, Annette does a lot of toddler and baby cuddling, reading, designing costumes for children’s theater and producing the coolest Halloween costumes anyone has ever seen. She has also worked as a diversity and inclusion facilitator serving school districts and large corporations. It’s the people that make this beautiful area special, and she wants to share those stories that touch the hearts of others. If you have a story idea to share, please reach out by email to
Ryan is an Arkansas native and podcast junkie. He was first introduced to public radio during an internship with his hometown NPR station, KUAF. Ryan is a graduate of Tufts University in Somerville, Mass., where he studied political science and led the Tufts Daily, the nation’s smallest independent daily college newspaper. In his spare time, Ryan likes to embroider, attend musicals, and spend time with his fiancée.