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Fire fight tops $4 million

Officials say the cost to battle a massive wildfire in Eastern North Carolina has topped $4 million.

Efforts continued Wednesday to put the blaze out, but firefighters say only a major rainstorm can extinguish the blaze.

Fire command center spokesman Bruce MacDonald says about $4.1 million has been spent on the fire that is burning in and around the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, up from $3.8 million Tuesday.

MacDonald says firefighters are spraying water on hotspots in the smoldering peat soil. About 350 people were assigned to the fire Wednesday.

The fire has burned about 41,000 acres in the sparsely populated area of three eastern counties. It is 70 percent contained.

The size of the wildfire may be rare, but statistics show that its occurrence is anything but.

There were 7,000 wildfires in North Carolina in 2007, according to the National Interagency Fire Center, and they burned more than 54,000 acres.

However, the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge fire is occurring on organic soils, which means the soil catches on fire and has the potential to smolder or burn for a long time, according to Toddi Steelman, an assistant professor in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources at N.C. State University. Associated Press and (Raleigh) News & Observer

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