Table Rock fire crews prepare for future high winds
BURKE COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - Officials say a wildfire burning in Burke County has spread to more than 2,500 acres and is 70 percent contained on Saturday.
Firefighters are continuing mop-up and rehabilitation efforts in advance of future weather conditions according to officials.
Crews are looking for and removing hazard trees because of an expected increase in wind speed.
Officials say crews are trying to prevent erosion by building water bars along dozer lines and hand crews will be doing similar work in the Linville Gorge Wilderness.
Rifle deer season opens on Monday and officials are reminding hunters to check the National Forests in North Carolinas web page for current closure information.
Officials say to make sure camp fires are "dead out" before leaving them.
Health officials in North Carolina issued an air quality advisory for air pollution in the western section of the state as smoke from the wildfire drifts downwind.
Officials say people in Burke, Caldwell and McDowell counties could experience unhealthy air quality, depending on wind directions. Police in Boone say they are getting reports of fairly heavy smoke in the area, which is believed to be from the wildfire.
The wildfire in the Pisgah National Forest, which has been out of control since it started Nov. 12, is producing heavy smoke that could contain high levels of particle pollution. The fire is centered in the Linville Gorge Wilderness near Table Rock Mountain.
More than 100 firefighters have been called in from across North Carolina and other states are working to contain the fire.
Firefighters are cleaning up existing roads, trails and existing fire lines from previous fires to contain the wildfire.
The fire is on the Linville Gorge side of the Table Rock mountain area but also has burned an area outside of the Gorge itself.
In the Gingercake Acres development, a few miles from the fire itself, smoke was thickening and ash particles, looking like snowflakes, began falling. "That is definitely not snow," said Ed McClure outside of his house.
He could also tell that the smoke cloud was getting thicker. "I am noticing it and my nose is getting plugged from it," he said.
Forestry officials said the smoke will increase on Friday as backburning operations get underway to clear out some containment lines. A helicopter will be used to drop ping-pong ball sized incendiary devices to set the fires. Officials advise anyone with respiratory problems to stay indoors if they are in an area where the smoke is thick.
Officials are not sure how long the firefighting efforts will be needed. No homes are threatened at this time, they said, but crews want to make sure the blaze does not break out into an area where that could happen.
Dan Vance, who has hiked the Linville Gorge area most of his life said it would be very tough to stop the fire with manpower alone. "They're gonna need some rain to stop it because they can't get to it."
Health officials say the smoke from the fire can impair breathing and aggravate symptoms in people with respiratory problems, and irritate the lungs in healthy individuals. People with chronic lung ailments and children should reduce physical exertion and outdoor activity.
The Forest Service is asking anyone who may have seen someone camping or was in the area of the Table Rock picnic area Monday to call the Forest Service at 828-652-2144.
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