Wildfires continue to grow in NC, SC - FOX Carolina 21

Wildfires continue to grow in NC, SC

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Helicopters fight the fire on Pinnacle Mountain (Courtesy: Robbie Wright) Helicopters fight the fire on Pinnacle Mountain (Courtesy: Robbie Wright)
Flames on Pinnacle Mountain (Courtesy: Robbie Wright) Flames on Pinnacle Mountain (Courtesy: Robbie Wright)
A blanket of smoke covers Lake Lure as the Party Rock fire continues to burn (Nov. 16, 2016/ FOX Carolina) A blanket of smoke covers Lake Lure as the Party Rock fire continues to burn (Nov. 16, 2016/ FOX Carolina)
Flames near Lake Lure (FOX Carolina/ Nov. 16, 2016) Flames near Lake Lure (FOX Carolina/ Nov. 16, 2016)
Jim and Chris Glassey prepare to evacuate their home on Hwy 9 (FOX Carolina/ Nov. 16, 2016) Jim and Chris Glassey prepare to evacuate their home on Hwy 9 (FOX Carolina/ Nov. 16, 2016)
PUMPKINTOWN, SC (FOX Carolina) -

Wildfires continue to scorch thousands of acres in the mountains of North and South Carolina.

The fires had scorched more than 50,000 acres by Thursday, according to data from firefighters and a tracking website for the NC fires.

The fires in Lake Lure and Pickens County continue to grow, officials said, as heavy smoke blankets the area, causing air quality issues.

Officials are also concerned a weather pattern heading to the area late week will lead to rapid fire growth and preparations are being made for when the gusty winds and low humidity arrives.

Officials ordered more evacuations for neighborhoods in Henderson County threatened by the Party Rock fire and officials in Pickens County requested that dozens of people flee their homes near the Pinnacle Mountain fire.

North Carolina:

While most fires saw slight increases into Thursday, officials reported the Old Roughy fire had been 100 percent contained and crews were close to completely containing the Knob and Dick's Creek fires.

Mandatory evacuations were issued in Henderson County for some residents in the Lake Lure area due to the Party Rock area wildfire, which had burned more than 5,714 acres by Thursday Firefighters said the fire is only 19 percent contained.

Officials say the Party Rock fire is the top priority nationally right now. About 850 people are battling the blaze.

Below is the update released Thursday morning by the NC Forest Service:

The Party Rock Fire grew to 5,714 acres, but remained at 19 percent containment. Firefighters continue to secure containment lines and conduct burnout operations on the Party Rock Fire in advance of a strong cold weather front that will move through the area this weekend. Burnout operations were completed on the northern containment line along Rolling Ridge Road in Gray Rock. A helicopter capable of delivering large water drops supported the operation to ensure the burnout did not cross containment lines. The dozer containment line installed on the easternmost side was used to support burnout operations that occurred overnight. The northern half of the eastern containment line was successfully burned out, and today’s operations will continue. Farther to the south, hand lines are being established and improved between the active fire perimeter and the communities of Rumbling Bald Resort.  Farther to the north of the Gray Rock containment line, residents in the neighborhoods of Camp Elliot, Ditney Knob, Sally Gap, Three Creeks and Earth Haven will see more smoke as burnout operations continue. The established containment is in place to protect these communities; however, residents located to the north of the fire should monitor information about the fire during the forecasted wind event.
 

New evacuation orders went into effect Wednesday in Lake Lure. People living on Highway 9 between the intersections of Highway 74 and Shumont Road, as well as connecting roads, were asked to evacuate their homes by 5 p.m. Wednesday. 

Below is the full statement on the evacuations from the NC Forest Service:

Henderson County emergency management officials and law enforcement will implement an evacuation of Highway 9 between the intersections of Highway 74-A and Shumont Road at noon on Wednesday, November 16th. The evacuation notice will include all roads that connect to Highway 9. Evacuations should be completed by 5:00 p.m. the same day. If you cannot evacuate your home due to special needs or disability, please call 911.

Residents can shelter at Grace Lutheran Church, 1245 6th Avenue West, Hendersonville. The Red Cross is operating this shelter; the shelter phone number is 828-693-5605.

On Tuesday, evacuations were lifted for neighborhoods accessible from Boys Camp Road but all other evacuations remain in place.

LIST: Mandatory evacuation areas in Henderson County

During a community meeting Wednesday afternoon, officials also announced that school was canceled in the area for the rest of the week. Mail service would also be stopped in those areas until further notice.

Also announced at the meeting, crews will close off  US 64/ US 74A and Highway 9 in Lake Lure at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

The closure will be between Lake Lure Town Hall and the Chimney Rock / Bat Cave area.

Below is detour info from the NCDOT:

  • Traffic on US 64 West: Take NC 9 south to NC 108 west to US 74 west to I-26 west to US 64 east.
  • Traffic on US 64 East: Use US 64 west to I-26 South to US 74 East to NC 108 north to NC 9 north to US 64.

Officials with the NC Forest Service said weather conditions are expected to worsen as the week progresses.

"The weather has not been conducive for large fire growth the past couple days, but those conditions will change later this week," the NC Forest Service stated in an e-mail Tuesday. "The approaching front will bring strong gusty winds from the southwest starting on Thursday. This wind event has the potential to push the fire to the north and northeast toward Weed Patch Mountain and the Gray Rock community. Windy conditions could also move flames towards the evacuated communities of Rumbling Bald Resort."

Officials said the encroaching weather conditions will support rapid fire growth and crews are already preparing.

"Fire managers are now planning for this fire growth potential by establishing contingency lines should primary containment lines not hold," the e-mail stated. "In addition, they are working with the structure protection group to ensure fire department engines are strategically placed within communities in the fire’s projected path to protect homes."

Gov. Pat McCrory said during a news conference on Monday that the Party Rock fire was the most severe in the state.

The governor said the fire was a threat to the communities of Lake Lure, Chimney Rock and Bat Cave. The fire was also threatening 40 businesses and a number of homes Monday morning.

MORE: McCrory: Most WNC fires believed to be started by humans

Officials said Sunday that the Party wildfire had moved off of Round Top mountain and had spread into the village of Chimney Rock and that fire crews were dousing the fire with water and working to protect structures.

No structures had been damaged and no injuries had been reported due to the fire as of Tuesday. Travelers are encouraged to adjust speed for reduced visibility on the roads. Residents with respiratory ailments should keep doors and windows closed and operate their HVAC system to avoid smoke-filled air.

Voluntary evacuations were also advised in Buncombe County due to the fire.

MORE: Voluntary evacuation areas in Buncombe County

More than a dozen fires were burning in Western North Carolina Monday, with the largest being the Tellico fire. The fire covered more than 13,600 acres in three counties. Evacuations for residents in the path of that fire have been issued and several roads are closed.

Officials say the evacuations will remain in place at least for the next 2 to 3 days.

MORE: Evacuations in 3 NC counties due to Tellico fire

On Nov. 10, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory also issued a state of emergency for 25 Western North Carolina counties to make the resources needed to fight the fires readily available.

Donations are being collected for evacuees in the Lake Lure area. Officials are collecting food water and Gatorade for the evacuees and for the firefighters battling the wildfires. Personal hygiene items are also needed. Click here for a full list of items needed and donation drop-off sites.

South Carolina:

In South Carolina, a fire on Pinnacle Mountain in the area of Table Rock State Park had grown to more than 3,000 acres by Wednesday and the Pickens County Council voted unanimously to issue a state of emergency to help get resources firefighters.

Officials also said evacuation orders could be issued as early as Thursday for 86 homes near the fire. Backburning operations and windy weather over the weekend is expected to produce heavy smoke in the area and the evacuations will be a precautionary measure.

MORE: Pickens Co. Council issues state of emergency to aid in wildfire fight

Russell Hubright, Public Information Officer with the SC Forestry Commission, said the fire was covering more than 3.5 miles of very steep terrain.

"Access is a real problem," he said. "We can't get bulldozers in there and it's difficult even to get hand crews in there."

Hubright said crews were actually burning additional areas around firebreaks so that fuels are burnt when the fire gets to those points. Crews were also working to strengthen firelines by making them wider and deeper.

The fire was 35 percent contained as of Wednesday.

Officials said backburning efforts on Tuesday helped secure the incident command post and other nearby homes from the fire. The SC Forestry Commission is Monitoring the fire as it heads east toward other neighborhoods but said no other evacuations were expected as of Wednesday.

The South Carolina Forestry Commission lifted prior evacuation orders on Sunday and said firefighters will continue going door-to-door informing area residents about the status of the fire.  

Drivers are being asked to avoid the area due to heavy emergency vehicle traffic and heavy smoke.

The cause of the wildfire was determined to be a campfire that grew out of control.

"Although the cause of the Pinnacle Mountain Fire has been determined to be an escaped campfire, rumors that this was a Boy Scout campfire are incorrect," Hubright said.

MORE: No new evacuations Sunday as Pickens Co. wildfire grows

The Easley Fire Department is collecting water and sports drink donations that they are dispersing to crews fighting the fire on Pinnacle Mountain. Click here for more information.

At this time, the fire department is asking for only individual such as water bottles or Gatorade instead of gallons of water and small bags of chips instead of large bags. Donations began pouring in and the individual items can be taken as crews disperse.

Items can be taken to the Easley Fire Department at 1089 Pendleton Street in Easley.

MORE:

Wildfires, smoke and how weather will affect it all

Air quality alert issued for several NC counties

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