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The Bald Knob Fire, burning on Pisgah National Forest 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.
Firefighters placed an information board at the Woodlawn picnic area off of State Highway 221 that members of the public can view to learn more about the fire and the benefits of natural ignition wildfire in fire-adapted ecosystems like Bald Knob.
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. Cooperating agencies include the North Carolina Forest Service, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, McDowell County Emergency Management, and The Nature Conservancy.
Photo: North Carolina Forest Service