Virginia Beach residents concerned over wildfire, one of four recently reported in Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge

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Posted at 9:16 AM, Feb 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-18 18:23:29-05

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — A wildfire had residents in the Sandbridge area of Virginia Beach and even Pungo concerned Thursday night. The fire lit up the sky.

A dispatcher with Virginia Beach Fire Department told News 3 it was a brush fire not far from Colchester Road, near the North Bay Shore Campground and Indian Cove Campground. They said a call was reported at 9 p.m. but some residents say it was earlier, maybe 7:30 p.m.

No injuries were reported.

Some neighbors said they thought it was a controlled burn, but News 3 has since learned that was not the case.

News 3 obtained a statement from Megan Reed, Refuge Manager at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge:

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), Virginia, has experienced four incidences of wildfire on Refuge managed lands in the last week. The first two wildfire incidents occurred on February 10, 2022 at Long Island and Mill Landing area. The third incident occurred on February 12 on an island west of Great Cove, with the fourth occurring on February 17 at North Marsh. The cause and acres burned for each wildfire is currently under investigation by Back Bay NWR Law Enforcement. No damage to structures was reported in any of the wildfire incidents. Refuge fire personnel were prepared to provide suppression activities on each wildfire, however, in all four incidences, the wildfires extinguished themselves without firefighter interaction. All Refuge managed lands that are expected to be open this time of year remain open and accessible to the public.

Back Bay NWR includes a robust fire management program. Refuge fire personnel completed two prescribed fires on February 10th and 11th in other areas of the refuge for habitat benefits. Refuge staff will always notify the public and local partners prior to the ignition of prescribed fire at the Refuge.

For more information about Back Bay NWR's fire program, or questions about wildfire occurrences on the Refuge, please reach out to 757-301-7329.

Visitors to Indian Cove Resort off Sandbridge Road had an up-close view of the flames. Supervisor of security at the campground, Billy Painter, said Virginia Beach Fire Department showed up with two trucks and two crews and monitored the fire to make sure it didn’t move into a dangerous location.

“Flames reaching maybe 30 feet in the air in some cases when the wind was blowing real hard,” Painter described. “So it was scary looking, but fortunately with the wind direction it pushed it away from us and later that night, the rain came and helped quell the fire.”

Painter added that he was ready to notify campers should they need to evacuate.

Back Bay NWR Law Enforcement is investigating to find the cause of the wildfire and assess any damage to the land or any habitats. A Wildlife Refuge manager added that if they are planning a controlled burn, they will post that on their Facebook page to give residents advanced notice.

You can read the full law on regulating fire in Virginia here.