WNC wildfire update 11/23

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Initial Attack

Early this morning, night-shift crews responded to a new fire start between Wayah Bald and the LBJ Job Corps Center. It’s called the Camp Branch Fire and it’s currently approximately 300 acres. It has not crossed Wayah Road or Camp Branch Creek. A large (type 1) helicopter is assisting firefighters on the ground with water drops. Crews are constructing fireline on the east and west sides and attempting to halt the fire’s northward progression.

Yesterday, crews contained the one-acre fire south of Franklin-the Jones Creek Fire-and it is in patrol status today.

Road Closure

Effective immediately, a segment of Wayah Road (State Road 1310) is closed between its intersection with Wayah Bald Road on the east and Crawford Road on the west.

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Boteler Fire (Clay County)
Leaf fall continues to challenge containment efforts by covering firelines. Yesterday afternoon, there was a minor breach in the fireline north of the junction of East and West Vineyard Roads and east of FS Road 6226. Firefighters have regained control of the fire in this area, and it poses no immediate threat. They will continue patrolling and monitoring existing firelines, clearing them out as necessary in an attempt to prevent escape into unburned areas. Leaf fall has also been resulting in occasional interior reburns, which firefighters are monitoring. Hotspots detected by aircraft using infrared cameras are being closely monitored and extinguished when firefighters can safely access them.
Size: 9,043 acres | Containment: 77 percent | Start Date: October 25

Tellico Fire (Swain and Macon Counties)
Fire managers reported at this morning’s operational briefing that they are very pleased with the condition of this fire’s containment lines. Due to the mop-up work crews have completed along firelines over the past several days, this fire should be put in patrol status soon. Firefighters continue to patrol the perimeter, blowing leaves off containment lines and extinguishing any remaining hotspots smoldering in duff, freshly fallen leaves, or stumps.
Size: 13,874 acres | Containment: 91 percent | Start Date: November 3

Cathey Gap and Dick’s Creek Fires (Jackson County)
Today, nineteen firefighters with three engines are assigned to these fires. They will walk the perimeters, looking for any persistent hotspots smoldering in duff, freshly fallen leaves, or stumps. They will blow or rake leaves off containment lines to ensure that any interior reburning does not compromise those lines.
Cathy Gap: Size: 123 acre | Containment: 90 percent | Start Date: November 17
Dick’s Creek: Size: 729 acres | Containment: 99 percent | Start Date: October 11

Maple Springs and Old Roughy Fires (Graham County)
Crews continue to patrol, mop up, and maintain containment lines on both fires. Crews have started rehabilitating dozer lines and other areas where fire-suppression actions have disturbed the landscape. Seeding those areas will help reduce the potential for erosion due to rainfall and runoff.
Size: 7,788 acres | Containment: 69 percent | Start Date: November 4

Fires in Patrol Status
The following fires are being patrolled regularly to ensure containment lines are holding: Buck Creek Fire (6 ac.), Falls Fire (NA), Grape Cove Fire (11 ac.), Moses Creek Fire (30 ac.), Jones Gap Fire (8 ac.), Jarrett Knob Fire (NA), Wine Spring Fire (93 ac.), Mulberry Fire (1 ac.), Moss Knob Fire (7 ac.), May Branch Fire (175 ac.), Boardtree Fire (0.5 ac.), Charley Creek Fire (6 ac.), Nick (0.2 ac.), Ridge Gap (1 ac.), Ferebee (now Tellico), Cliffside Fire (110 ac.), Whitewater Fire (23 ac.), Howard Gap (0.2 ac.), Knob (1,130 ac.), Muskrat (104 ac.), Bullpen (6 ac.), Jones Creek (1.3 ac).

Weather and Fire Behavior
Valley winds will be from the southwest around 5-10 mph, up to 15 mph on ridgetops. The gradual warming trend continues; temperatures are expected to reach the low 60s this afternoon. The relative humidity remains low-in the low 20- to mid-30-percent range. Any precipitation that develops over the fire area tonight will be insignificant and will not have a lasting beneficial effect on the fires.

The Boteler and Nantahala Branch Fires are minimally active and not expected to grow. Fire managers are most concerned about short-range spotting from interior reburns. As leaves fall onto fire-blacked, still-hot ground, they can ignite and become airborne, crossing containment lines into unburned vegetation. Firefighters are patrolling all fire perimeters to ensure that spot fires do not get established.

Nantahala National Forest Closures
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 Ranger 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.

The following 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).

Burning Restrictions
A total fire ban is in effect for the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests (www.fs.usda.gov/detail/nfsnc/alerts-notices/?cid=fseprd524246) and for forty-seven western North Carolina counties (ncforestservice.gov/news_pubs/newsdesk_2016.htm#1121162).

Nearby Fires
The Rock Mountain Fire, near Tate City, Georgia, continues to progress northward into the Southern Natahala Wilderness on the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina. No structures have been burned. Smoke is visible from Franklin and many other communities in our area. The fire is being managed by the Pacific Northwest 3 Incident Management Team. Fire information: 470-208-2866 and inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5100/

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Wildfire News

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