Wildfires In McDowell County Increase To Over 700 Acres

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*For updated information as of Saturday morning Aug 8, see this updated page*

Motorist driving through or close to McDowell County may notice smoke in the area from two wildfires, that have been burning for many days. On Wednesday (Aug 5, 2015) smoke pushed into the High Country, and continued to linger into Thursday. Due to the smoke an Air Quality Alert for Watauga & Avery was issued.

Information from US Forest Service:

The Bald Knob Fire received almost 2 inches of rain on Thursday night. There is very little smoke production from the fire. Wolf Creek fire also received rain and is producing very little smoke. However, both fires are still active and small smoke was observed Friday afternoon and is expected to increase through the weekend.

Bald Knob Fire – August 7 Update

50 Firefighters, 2 bulldozers and 1 engine are assigned to the Bald Knob fire. 1 Helicopter is being used between the Bald Knob and Wolf Creek fires. Estimated Acres burned and contained: · 520 acres- Firefighters are working on containment lines.

Threats/Concerns: · Cloudy conditions Thursday caused smoke to settle over the area. Communities near the fire, especially around Marion, Nebo, Lake James and Glen Alpine, NC, may experience ground-level smoke. The public can expect to see smoke from this fire for several weeks due to drought conditions in the area. ·

High wind on Wednesday afternoon increased fire activity ahead of the cold front entering the area yesterday. Isolated thunderstorms near the fire produced strong downdrafts but no precipitation for the Bald Knob fire, pushing smoke to the north-northwest towards Boone, NC. · Officials are managing risk for firefighter and public safety due to limited access in the rough terrain around Bald Knob and high fuel loading in the area. Closures: · 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. Remarks: · 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.

Wolf Creek Fire – August 6 Update

Firefighters continue to make progress on the Wolf Creek wildfire burning on the Pisgah National Forest in McDowell County. The fire is now at 230 acres and is 40% contained. Fire activity has slowed as higher humidity moved back into the area today.

The Wolf Creek fire is located northwest of Old Fort, NC in steep terrain between Heartbreak Ridge and Jarrett Creek. Firefighters are completing burn out operations within containment lines, and are starting mop up operations to put out remaining hot-spots near fire lines.

Members of the public can expect to continue to see smoke 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 N.C. Department of Transportation has installed signs on I-40 westbound near Exit 81 and eastbound near Exit 66 warning travelers of the potential for smoke. Officials expect the fire to continue to grow within containment lines until the area receives significant rainfall.

Heartbreak Ridge Trail (208) and Star Gap Trail (209) remain closed to public use until further notice.  Jarret Creek Road (Forest Service Road 4030) 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.

Minimizing risk for firefighters, local communities, and the public are primary objectives. The U.S. Forest Service and N.C. Forest Service are managing the fire jointly with resources from both agencies and support from McDowell County Emergency Management Services. 48 firefighters are assigned to the incident. The cause of the fire is still undetermined.

Bald Knob Fire

The Bald Knob fire, burning on Pisgah National Forest land in McDowell County north of Marion, NC, is now estimated at 375 acres. The fire was reported on July 17th in a remote area near Dobson Knob, north of Lake James.

Firefighters have finished fire lines on the south end of the fire and are actively constructing fire lines on the west side, as well as scouting for additional containment lines. 17 Firefighters are assigned to the Bald Knob fire. 1 Helicopter is being used between the Bald Knob and Wolf Creek fires.

A shift in wind direction has caused smoke from Bald Knob fire to settle towards the south, impacting areas around Marion and Nebo, NC, with the public seeing and smelling smoke as far south as Rutherfordton, NC. The public can expect to see smoke from this fire for several weeks due to drought conditions in the area.

A community meeting to provide information to the public for the Bald Knob fire will be held on Thursday August 6, at 6:30pm at the Woodlawn Baptist Church, 7873 US-221 North in Marion, NC. Firefighters continue to update the fire information board at the Woodlawn Roadside Park area off of State Highway 221.

The US Forest Service is using a “confine and contain” strategy to manage the Bald Knob fire for multiple objectives. Officials are managing risk for firefighter safety due to limited access in the rough terrain around Bald Knob and high fuel loading in the area.

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.

High winds hampered firefighting efforts yesterday on the Wolf Creek wildfire burning on the Pisgah National Forest in McDowell County. Passing isolated storms created windy conditions without any relief of rain on the fire, causing the fire to grow to 200 acres.


Wolf Creek Fire – August 5 Update

The Wolf Creek fire has grown to 200 acres, and is 30% contained, according to officals. The fire is located northwest of Old Fort, NC in steep terrain between Heartbreak Ridge and Jarrett Creek. Firefighters have completed containment lines around the fire and are continuing burn-out operations today.

Members of the public can expect to continue to see smoke 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.

Minimizing risk for firefighters, local communities, and the public are primary objectives. The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and N.C. Forest Service (NCFS) are managing the fire jointly with resources from both agencies and support from McDowell County Emergency Management Services. 35 firefighters, a dozer, two engines, and a helicopter are assigned to the incident. The cause of the fire is still undetermined.

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