Western NC burn ban remains as fires continue to spark across the region
This is a developing story and will be updated. Check out last week's coverage here.
Friday November 17:
The U.S. Forest Service has sent firefighters working at the Collett Ridge fire in Cherokee County to the Black Bear in Haywood County. The NC National Forests will continue staffing the Collett Ridge Fire since it is only 80% contained. Yesterday the Black Bear fire was 150 acres and by the morning it had grown to 382 acres and is 0% contained, according to Forest Service.
Appalachian Trail hikers in the area have been advised to leave the trail.
At 4pm, the Forest Service shared that the Black Bear fire has grown to 1,193 acres. The Black Bear Fire located in steep, rugged terrain near Interstate 40 at mile marker 3, in Haywood County on the Appalachian Ranger District of the Pisgah National Forest. Expect smoke when driving along I-40 near the fire.
The Appalachian Trail is closed from Interstate 40 to Max Patch. Road closures are in effect for Cold Springs Road and Brown Gap Road.
Thursday afternoon November 16:
For the first time since 2017 nine counties in Western North Carolina are experiencing extreme drought. Cherokee, Clay, Cleveland, Graham, Henderson, Macon, Polk, Rutherford and Transylvania counties are all included in the list from the state’s Drought Management Advisory Council.
This means that the drought in the region has been getting worse since the beginning of November.
The National Weather Service is predicting wetter-than-average winter weather, but the shift is unlikely to occur for several weeks, said Klaus Albertin, chair of the DMAC.
“The mid- to long-term forecast is still for a wet winter due to the El Niño pattern,” Albertin said in a press release. “Conditions are likely to continue to degrade into early December, however, since we haven’t seen a shift in the weather pattern yet.”
The Council advises local governments to implement drought response actions. These actions were established as guidelines during the 2007 drought.
The rest of the state is also experiencing a drought. Portions of 30 counties are in the Severe Drought category as of Nov. 14. Forty counties are undergoing Moderate Drought. Portions of all 99 counties, except for Pamlico County, are experiencing abnormally dry conditions.
There is a 150 acre fire in Haywood County that is not contained at all, according to state website. The U.S. Forest Service said the fire was started by a tractor trailer crash.
Thursday morning November 15:
In Cherokee County, the Collett Ridge fire has now been 80% contained but the acreage size has increased by 112 acres from yesterday to 5,447 acres. The Forest Service said that the fire fighters have been reducing fuel around homes in the area of the Snowbird Wilderness Outfitters to keep structures safe. There are plans to continue this work around homes located south of Pisgah Road to the McClelland Creek Road and Snider Road area, and along the south side of Junaluska Road towards Junaluska Baptist Church.
The burn ban continues to be in effect. The recent Buncombe County fire is now contained, according to the NC Forest Service’s website.
In Henderson County, the Poplar Drive fire is now 434 acres and 98% contained.
Wednesday afternoon November 15:
In Cherokee County, the Collett Ridge fire has now been 79% contained. Fire activity is minimal, the U.S. Forest Service said. However, there is still visible smoke near Rattlesnake Knob at the northwest perimeter of the fire.
The burn ban continues to be in effect. In Buncombe County, there is an active three acre fire, according to the NC Forest Service’s website.
Tuesday afternoon November 14:
In Cherokee County, the Collett Ridge fire has now been 71% contained. The area of the fire has grown to 5,335 acres in the county since Oct. 23. The Forest Service shared that hand line work has been completed around the perimeter of the fire area and crews will continue to improve containment lines.
The Collett Ridge Fire was started by a lightening strike, according to the Forest Service.
Andrews Mayor James Reid told BPR on Tuesday that he felt better since much of the fire is contained.
"From everything I'm hearing, I think we're on the homestretch. We definitely can't let our guard down, but I feel so much better about the forest fire this week than I did last week. The rain was truly a godsend," Reid said in a text.
On Friday, Cherokee County Commission Chairman Cal Stiles declared a state of local emergency due to the fact that "lives, health and property of Cherokee County citizens and firefighters are imminently threatened by the ongoing conflagration," the declaration reads.
New fires continued to spark across the region, despite the ongoing burn ban for 30 counties in the region. In Henderson County, the Poplar Drive Fire is 75% contained.
In Madison County, an active 36-acre fire is 40% contained.
Over 40 recent fires are now contained, out or controlled according to the NC Forest Service’s website.
Monday November 13:
The Poplar Drive Fire in Henderson County is now 75% contained and holding at 434 acres in size, according to Monday's report by the N.C. Forest Service. Firefighters will continue to aggressively mop-up inside containment lines, patrol around structures, reduce the risk of falling snags and strengthen containment lines where necessary and the Forest Service and other emergency responders are keeping a close watch on homes in the area.
Firefighting crews are making big progress in Cherokee County on a wildfire burning in the Nantahala National Forest. The Collett Ridge fire is still holding at 5,335 acres and is now more than 55% contained, up from 18% on Sunday according to a statement issued Monday morning by the U.S. Forest Service.