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Smoke from massive brush fire travels across state

Tuesday - 8/9/2011, 2:16pm  ET

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON -- It's been burning for five days and now smoke from a massive brush fire in Virginia's Great Dismal Swamp is raising concern nearly 200 miles away.

The fire had consumed more than 2,500 acres of brush land by Tuesday morning in the National Wildlife Refuge near Chesapeake.

The smoke has apparently traveled a great distance with complaints coming in as far north as Cobb Island in Charles County, Maryland, which is across the Potomac and more than 150 miles away.

The fire is being fed by high winds, high temperatures, low humidity and dry fuel.

Crystal Hunt, a Charles County spokeswoman, says the smoke is traveling up the coastline.

"We want people that are elderly, or that may have respiratory issues to take precautionary measures," she said.

Those precautions include limiting outdoor activities.

In some parts of southern Maryland the haze is clearly visible. Victoria Wolf, 16, lives in Calvert County and says she can feel it in her lungs.

"It almost stings a little bit, it's very, very strong," she says. "When you walk outside, it's kind of like the smell of a barbeque and it just like smacks you in the face."

The fire has been burning since Aug. 4. It's centered southwest of Lake Drummond deep inside the wildlife refuge.

Recommendations for those with respiratory issues:

Pay attention to your senses. If you can smell smoke but cannot see it, air quality levels are probably in the Code Orange range, which means they're unhealthy for sensitive people. Those with heart or lung disease, older adults and children should reduce prolonged or strenuous outdoor activities. Those who are active outdoors should take it easier than usual to limit their exposure to particle pollution.

  • If you can smell smoke and it appears hazy, or some of your visibility is reduced, air quality levels are probably in the Code Red range, which means it's unhealthy for the general public. Those with heart or lung disease, older adults and children should avoid prolonged or strenuous outdoor activities; everyone else should reduce prolonged or strenuous outdoor activities.

  • If you can smell and see smoke, air quality levels are probably in the Code Purple range, which is very unhealthy. At Code Purple levels, people with heart or lung disease, older adults and children should avoid all outdoor strenuous activities; everyone else should avoid prolonged or strenuous outdoor activities.

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    (Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)