NEBO, N.C., March 21, 2017- Firefighters conducted burnout operations again today on the White Creek Fire, increasing containment to 30%. The fire, which was reported Thursday March 16th, is burning near Shortoff Mountain at the south end of Linville Gorge on the Grandfather Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest. The fire is now estimated at 1,750 acres.
The fire continues to burn within the containment lines. Firefighters worked today to strengthen containment using burn out operations to remove fuels within the containment area. Due to the rugged terrain in Linville Gorge, defensible fire lines fall back to natural features and previously existing control lines. This indirect approach follows incident objectives of protecting public and firefighter safety and minimizing impacts in the wilderness.
Tomorrow, firefighters will patrol and monitor the fire area, as well as work to extinguish any hot spots near fire lines. Windy conditions and low humidity are expected throughout the day tomorrow before conditions moderate Thursday.
Residents of southern Burke and Catawba Counties are experiencing smoke this afternoon. Smoke will impact areas between Lake James and Hickory through this evening. Drivers should use caution on smoky roadways – increase following distance and use headlights.
Law enforcement officials completed investigations this afternoon and determined lightning to be the likely cause of the fire. Officials surveyed the initial 35 acres the fire burned the day of ignition and were unable to find signs of campfires or other human cause. Lightning detection networks show a lightning strike near the origin of the fire on March 6th, prompting a smoke report. The lightning strike likely smoldered until fuels dried enough for the fire to spread.
169 firefighters are on scene today. The U.S. Forest Service is leading fire response efforts, with support from the North Carolina Forest Service, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, Burke and McDowell County Emergency Management, and North Carolina Emergency Management.
An area closure is in effect for all U.S. Forest Service lands east of State Road 1238 (Old NC 105 / Kistler Memorial Highway), south of Conley Cove Trail (Tr #229), south of Table Rock Picnic Area, west of Back Irish Creek Forest Service Road #118 (Blue Gravel Road) and Roses Creek Forest Service Road #99, north of Highway 126. In addition, the following trails are closed: Shortoff Trail (Tr #235), Rock Jock Trail (Tr #247), Pinch-In Trail (Tr #228), Linville Gorge Trail (Tr #231) south of Conley Cove Trail (Tr #229), Mountains to Sea Trail (Tr #440) from State Road 1238 at Pinnacles to the Table Rock Picnic Area, and any social trails existing within the closure area. Public entry is prohibited within this area.
Remember: Flying a drone near a wildfire is breaking the law. Doing so can result in a significant fine and/or a mandatory court appearance. So, be smart and just don't fly your drone anywhere near a wildfire.