Here is the latest on the wildfires in western NC.
Boteler Fire (Clay County)
Although the smoke has cleared in the Hayesville area, freshly fallen leaves within the Boteler Fire’s containment lines are still burning. Yesterday, helicopters dropped water on interior hot spots northeast of East Vineyard Road. On the northeast corner of the fire north of Buck’s Creek Road, crews reinforced firelines and mopped up hot spots. The blasting crew safely removed 36 hazard trees south of Passmore Spur along the north section of Nelson Ridge Road.
Today, crews will continue aggressive mop up to strengthen existing firelines. Patrols will look for rollouts in steep terrain where burning logs may roll down into unburned areas. Firefighters will check for active fire and areas that have reburned along Cedar Cliff Road and the Pounding Mill area off Highway 64. The blasting crew will be finishing up hazard-tree removal along Nelson Ridge Road southeast of Tusquittee Rd.
The Rock Mountain Fire in Towns County, Georgia, has crossed into North Carolina. The Southern Area Incident Management Team reassigned firefighters and equipment to the fire, which is being managed by Pacific Northwest Incident Management Team 3. The fire is currently five miles southeast of the town of Shooting Creek. For more information on the Rock Mountain Fire, go to inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5100/
Size: 8,975 acres | Containment: 57% | Start Date: October 25
Tellico Fire (Swain and Macon Counties)
Fire managers who inspected most of the fire’s perimeter yesterday reported seeing very little smoke near containment lines or in the interior. Even though a lot of mop-up work remains, they were very pleased with the crews’ progress and the condition of the containment lines. They were particularly impressed with the structure-protection work the firefighters did around the numerous mountain-community residences. Today, crews will focus their mop-up efforts on the fire’s east side along Needmore Road and the Little Tennessee River and on the southwest side along Queens Creek, Partridge Creek Road, and Deweese Road. Firefighters will monitor Highway 19/74 for fire, rolling rocks, and falling trees that could impact the roadway and public safety.
Size: 13,874 acres | Containment: 81% | Start Date: November 3
Muskrat Valley Fire and Bull Pen Fire (Macon County)
Both fires are being staffed today with crews who will walk the perimeters, patrolling, blowing leaves off, and mopping up containment lines. They will monitor the fires for interior reburning and extinguish any hot spots or spot fires that could result from wind-borne embers crossing firelines.
Muskrat Acres: 103 | Containment: 98% | Start Date: November 11
Bull Pen Fire: Acres: 4 | Containment: 95% | Start Date: November 15
Initial Attack and Fires in Patrol Status
The initial-attack crew responded to another fire start yesterday-the Perry Fire-southeast of Franklin on Nickajack Road. The fire is on state land, but our firefighters assisted under a mutual-aid agreement. They got fireline constructed around it and held it to approximately 5 acres.
A second fire-Cathy Gap Fire-was detected just before midnight in Jackson County approximately 2 miles west of Highway 215 along Forest Road 1756, and firefighters worked to suppress it the rest of the night. As of the 8 a.m. briefing, the fire was 50 acres, but it is still active and growing. Engines and firefighters from the Dick’s Creek Fire are reassigned to the Cathy Gap Fire today.
The following fires are being patrolled daily to ensure containment lines are holding: Buck Creek Fire (8 ac.), Falls Fire (NA), Grape Cove Fire (35 ac.), Moses Creek Fire (30 ac.), Jones Gap Fire (115 ac.), Jarrett Knob Fire (NA), Wine Spring Fire (95 ac.), Mulberry Fire (NA), Moss Knob Fire (7 ac.), May Branch Fire (175 ac.), Boardtree Fire (0.5 ac.), Charley Creek Fire (3 ac.), Ridge Gap (2 ac.), Cliffside Fire (101 ac.), Whitewater Fire (23 ac.), Howard Gap (0.2 ac.), Knob (1,130 ac.), and Dick’s Creek (728 ac.)
Weather and Fire Behavior
The warming and drying trend continues today. As a strong cold front approaches from the west tomorrow, isolated showers may develop along the front but no significant rainfall is expected. Today’s maximum temperature is expected to be around 72 degrees in the valleys and 67 degrees on the ridgetops. The minimum relative humidity could drop to 22 percent in the valleys and as low as 17 percent on the ridgetops. Light winds will be generally from the west around 5 mph. Fire behavior will be most intense on ridgetops where drier air and wind combine or when winds align with slopes of mountain laurel and rhododendron. As the sun quickly heats and dries exposed slopes and vegetation, there will be several hours this afternoon when the fires could potentially become active.
Road and Trail Closures
• Only residents are allowed on the following roads: Big Dog, Gassaway, Licklog, Long Branch, Luther Bingham, Mason, Morgan, Northern Partridge, Silver Mine, East Silver Ridge, Wesser Creek, Wilkes.
• Only residents are allowed on the following roads: Deweese and Partridge Creek.
Nantahala National Forest
• An area closure order (No. 08-11-09-17-02) for the Tusquitee Ranger District is in effect for lands, trails, and roads in the area surrounding the Boteler Fire. To view a map and complete list of closed roads and trails, go to tinyurl.com/zoq4lm8.
• An area closure order (No. 08-11-00-17-03) for the Tusquitee and Nantahala Rangers Districts is in effect for lands, trails, and roads southeast of the Boteler Fire. The closed area extends south from Highway 64 to the Georgia border and includes the Southern Nantahala Wilderness. The Appalachian Trail is closed from the Nantahala Outdoor Center south to the Georgia border. To view a map and complete list of closed roads and trails, go to tinyurl.com/jmxv7dv.
• These trails are also closed: Wesser Creek, Whitewater Falls, Foothills from NC Hwy 281 to the Bad Creek access, Bartram Trail from Wine Spring Bald west to Nantahala Lake, and Bartram Trail from the trailhead at NC 106 north and west to NC 1643 (Hickory Knoll Road).
• Information on Appalachian Trail fire restrictions and closures can be found by visiting: http://www.nps.gov/appa and https://www.facebook.com/Appalachian-National-Scenic-Trail-224252207651827/ or Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) at http://www.appalachiantrail.org.
• Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests total fire ban: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/nfsnc/alerts-notices/?cid=fseprd524246
• NC Forest Service open-burning ban: ncforestservice.gov/news_pubs/newsdesk_2016.htm# 1107161
There will be a community meeting at 7 p.m. tonight at First Freewill Baptist Church, 259 Tusquittee Road, Hayesville. Representatives from the Southern Area Incident Management Team will provide an update on the current fire situation and answer questions. If you can’t attend the meeting in person, attend through Facebook Live (link above).
The home of “Big Bang Theory” star Johnny Galecki has been destroyed in a wildfire in California.
By the end of the day Monday, it was reported to be 1,365 acres and 20 percent contained.
It is about 20 miles south of Waynesville, North Carolina, in the headwaters of Crawford Creek.
The news about the two arrests in the Gatlinburg wildfires came on December 7 in a live TBI news conference.
Burger knew something was wrong on November 28 when his cat started acting strangely.