Monday, August 3, 2015

Two Wildfires Burning in Pisgah National Forest

There are currently two wildfires burning in Pisgah National Forest.

The Bald Knob Fire, burning on land in McDowell County north of Marion, NC, increased to 190 acres over the weekend. The fire grew in size as weather patterns brought dry, less humid conditions to the area.

The Bald Knob Wildfire was reported on July 17th in a remote area near Dobson Knob, north of Lake James. Wetter weather kept the fire activity low for the first two weeks. With dry conditions over the weekend, fire activity and smoke have increased. Members of the public near Marion, NC and those traveling along State Highway 221 can expect to see and smell smoke, with heaviest smoke likely to occur in the afternoons when temperatures are high and humidity low.

With no significant rain forecasted over the next several days, officials expect the fire to continue to move north-west towards Dobson Knob. Firefighters are scouting for potential containment lines on the west side of the fire and improving existing lines on the south end.

The fire is moving naturally across the terrain in an area where damage from Southern Pine Beetle created high levels of fuels, leading to increased smoke from the fire. This area is adjacent to multiple prescribed burn areas that have recently been treated as part of the Grandfather Restoration Project which will limit the fire’s ability to spread rapidly. The Columbine Wildfire Module, a specialized unit experienced in managing fires for multiple objectives, is assisting with the “confine and contain” strategy currently being employed.

A temporary closure of a section of the Mountains to Sea Trail between the footbridge over the North Fork of the Catawba River and Dobson Knob Road (Forest Service Road 106) remains in place.

The cause of the fire was likely lightning though the ignition source remains unconfirmed.

Firefighters are also working to contain the Wolf Creek wildfire, which is also burning land in McDowell County. With dry conditions and low humidity, the fire grew Sunday afternoon and Monday morning and is now estimated at 75 acres and 30 percent contained. The Wolf Creek fire is located northwest of Old Fort, NC in steep terrain between Heartbreak Ridge and Jarrett Creek.

Firefighters completed containment lines on the south and west sides of the fire and are currently conducting burn-out operations. Crews are using low-intensity fire within the containment lines to reduce fuels in between the fire lines and the wildfire edge. Firefighters are also continuing to monitor the fire line along Jarrett Creek.

Members of the public can expect to see increased smoke today in the Old Fort area and along Interstate 40 and U.S. Highway 70. Travelers along I-40 between Ridgecrest and Marion, NC should use caution as smoke may settle along the highway this evening. The NCDOT has installed signs on I-40 westbound near Exit 81 and eastbound near Exit 66 warning travelers of the potential for smoke. With no significant rain forecasted over the next several days, officials expect the fire to continue to grow within containment lines.

Heartbreak Ridge Trail (208) and Star Gap Trail (209) remain closed to public use and will be in effect until further notice. Jarret Creek Road (FS4030) is also closed to public use. Forest Service officials are asking the public to avoid this area for their own safety and the safety of emergency response personnel on scene.



Jeff
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