NEBO, N.C., March 18, 2017- Burnout operations and dry conditions yesterday afternoon caused the White Creek fire to grow significantly prior to rainstorms overnight. The fire is now estimated at 585 acres and remains 0% contained. The White Creek fire is burning near Shortoff Mountain at the south end of the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area, on the Grandfather Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest.
Yesterday, firefighters worked to improve firelines on the south end of the fire and conducted burnout operations along fire lines and ridges to reduce the intensity of the fire and protect private property. Burnout operations remove fuels between the active fire and the fire lines to slow fire spread.
The fire area received around ½ inch of rainfall overnight. Rainfall significantly reduced fire behavior but did not extinguish the fire. Surveys of the fire area found active flames are still visible in the interior of the burned area. Today, firefighters are patrolling and monitoring the fire area. Winds are forecast to increase throughout the afternoon, with smoke potentially impacting areas south east of the fire around Lake James and Morganton.
147 firefighters are on scene. Management of the fire was turned over to the National Forests in North Carolina Type 3 team today. Fire Managers are developing a strategy for the next several days as drying conditions are expected through early next week. Firefighters are faced with the challenges of difficult terrain as well as the consideration of minimum impacts within the Wilderness area.
An area closure remains 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.
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. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
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.