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    Posted August 14, 2011 by
    Hampton Roads, Virginia
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Wildfires blazing near you

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    Wildfire Has Now Crossed the Virginia Border Into North Carolina, and Threatens Firefighters


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     ecotraveler shot this picture of canoers in Dismal Swamp, Virginia. The swamp is currently being threatened by a large, long-burning wildfire.
    - jmsaba, CNN iReport producer

    The photo above was taken 3 months before the largest wildfire in it's history gripped the Great Dismal Swamp August 4, 2011 and is refusing to let go.  Normally, this historic canal is bustling with recreational boaters and those traveling this important portion of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.

    This week however, the canal was closed to the public and now allows only emergency vehicles fighting the fire that started as a lightening strike.

    The large Swamp spans Virginia and North Carolina at their eastern-most, southern and northern borders respectively, and houses a wildlife refuge.

    Employees at the swamp's Welcome Center in Virginia normally look out on the lush preserved canal and come to work greeted by the sounds of the 200 species of birds that make their home here.  Black Bears, Gray Fox, Minks, reptiles, other smaller animals and a rare species of butterfly share this centuries old habitat.  This week firefighters doused those trees and the view was only of heavy limbs dripping with water and thick smoke.

    The songs of the birds that normally greet employees and fill the air have been replaced with the smell of heavy smoke as the fire has now spread into the peat which extends six feet down into the swamp.

    Experts said the fire could spread and burn through the peat for "a very, very long time" if rain and man can't get the ever growing fire extinguished.

    On Saturday, August 13 at 3:00 PM, it was reported that the fire in the peat is posing the biggest threat to the 326 fire fighters that have traveled here from all over the southeast. Peat is the support for the swamp's vegetation and now unsupported trees are falling around them and blocking important roadways and exits.

    As of Friday, only the Washington and Jericho ditches, the access to hiking and biking trails, were open but on Saturday, officials contemplated closing the Washington Ditch to the public.

    The smoke has been blowing north into Hampton Roads and the  full moon and almost full moon curiously turned an unusual orange color as it rose late Friday and Saturday nights.  By the wee hours of the morning, thick smoke clouds had completely obscured the birght full moon.

    Air and driving advisories have been issued throughout the week in Hampton Roads as far away as Hampton and Newport News, as the wind shifted south then north.

    Digging the canal began in 1793, and boaters have been using it for fun and commerce since 1805.

    As of Saturday, a total of 5 crews were battling the 5,868 acre fire in the two states, with only 10% of it reported as contained.

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