"Fire Threatens Dismal Swamp Atlantic White Cedar Ecosystem"

"The legacy of George Washington's centuries-old logging venture in the Great Dismal Swamp is contributing to the possible demise of a valuable ecosystem as a barely contained fire burns on the Virginia-North Carolina border, experts say."

"As of late Sunday the brush fire had burned 6,156 acres and was probably ignited by a lightning strike on or around August 4, officials said.

Feeding largely on carbon-rich peat, the fire is sending smoke as far as Annapolis, Maryland -- four hours by car -- and causing respiratory health concerns among the nearby Hampton Roads population of 1.5 million.

Officials said the fire is being battled by 385 firefighters and is 10 percent contained, as it burns within the Great Dismal Swamp Wildlife Refuge in Virginia and North Carolina's Dismal Swamp State Park.

In the firing line, according to Christopher Newport University's Center for Wetland Conservation director Rob Atkinson, is Atlantic white cedar."

Matthew Ward reports for Reuters August 16, 2011.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011