Updated December 8, 2016 – More than 59,000 acres in Western NC have now been charred by over 20 wildfires in Western NC. There are currently 18 active fires in North Carolina alone; however, the fires at this point are mostly contained. Many are smoldering with only small amounts of active burn activity.
For information, updates,and photos on the Gatlinburg Fire, please go here.
While not in North Carolina, the recent Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Gatlinburg, TN fires have been the worst. The Gatlinburg fires, which broke out Tuesday evening, as a result of cinders blowing into Gatlinburg from the Chimney Tops fire in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park have devastated the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge Areas.
Sevier County, where both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge reside has over 250 structures damaged or burned to the ground. Three fatalities have been reported so far as a result of the fires. More than have of Gatlinburg has been damaged by fire.
Much needed rain has moved into the area, and has helped, however high winds have made for dangerous conditions, even with the rain. You can see a more detailed report on the Gatlinburg fires below. We also recommend joining our Blue Ridge Mountain Life Facebook group, where lots of information and photos are being shared on the fires and how you can help.
Thousands of firefighters are currently fighting to contain the Forest Fires in Western NC and get the fires under control. These are a combination of both local firefighters, and firefighters that have travelled in from all over the country to assist.
Six North Carolina counties have had evacuations due to fires already and in particular the Lake Lure area due to dangerous conditions as a result of fire. Residents are being evacuated due to approaching flames, and risk of structural fire.
In other areas of Western NC, smoke is a huge problem, especially those that need to be outside or have medical conditions such as Asthma. Surrounding states are seeing smoke from the fires, and reports of smoke are coming from as far away as Atlanta and Eastern NC. Even Charlotte, more than 2 hours away went under a code orange air quality for the past few days. The majority of Western North Carolina is under a Code Red air quality warning and has been for the past two weeks.
In Macon County, whose county seat is Franklin, NC special N95-rated masks health masks were being made available Saturday, as standard surgical masks do not provide enough protection against smoke particles.
Many of the more than 20 active wildfires in North Carolina are being investigated as suspected arson. A couple of arrests have already been made in TN and the people charged with arson as a result of setting fires. North Carolina has a $10,000 reward for anyone that can provide information leading to the arrest of anyone connected with starting any of the NC fires.
Governor Pat McCrory requested federal funding to assist with fighting the fires. Funding was approved and a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay 75% of the emergency protective measures taken while fighting the fires.
A number of fires are being investigated as arson. Wildfires often start due to environmental causes, especially under dry conditions, like Western North Carolina is experiencing now. North Carolina and other surrounding states are experiencing some of the driest conditions in history this Fall.
The majority of the current NC Wildfires are the result of humans. Things like sparks from machinery, unattended campfires, leaf burning, and cigarettes. In fact, we recently heard a verified report that a driver threw a cigarette out of their car on I-40, and it immediately started a blaze that quickly travelled up the hillside. Fortunately, local fire fighters were able to extinguish the blaze before it got out of control.
As a result, 25 counties in North Carolina are under a “burn ban” which prohibits all open burning. Additionally, all existing burning permits have been canceled. The burn ban took effect on Monday 11/7 at 5pm and is in effect until further notice.
The burn ban does not apply to cooking fires such as grills or outdoor cookers.
The ban does not apply to a fire within 100 feet of an occupied dwelling. County fire marshals have jurisdiction over open burning within 100 feet of an occupied dwelling. The N.C. Forest Service has advised county fire marshals of the burning ban and asked for their consideration of also implementing a burning ban. In addition, other local ordinances and air quality regulations may also impact open burning.
If a fire within that 100-foot area escapes containment, a North Carolina forest ranger may take reasonable steps to extinguish or control it. The person responsible for setting the fire may be responsible for reimbursing the N.C. Forest Service for any expenses related to extinguishing it.
Open burning includes burning leaves, branches and other plant material. In all cases, it is illegal to burn trash, lumber, tires, newspapers, plastics or other non-vegetative materials.
Outdoor burning is also prohibited in areas covered by Code Orange or Code Red air quality forecasts.
Active Western North Carolina Wildfires
There are currently more than 20 wildfires burning in Western NC, and the counts vary day to day as existing fires spread. The following sections provide updates on the largest fires:
Active NC Fire Map
Fire Map courtesy of InciWeb.
Boteler Fire, Clay County
Status: Active – Smoldering
Location: In the Shooting Creek community, 6 miles east of Hayesville, NC
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