11-24-2016 Update: Boteler, Maple Springs, and Nantahala Branch Fires
Incident: Knob Fire Wildfire
8 crews, 65 engines, 7 helicopters, 2 tankers, 11 dozers, 7 water tender, 640 total personnel, 33,256 total acres
A fire was detected on state land off Green Cove Road east of Brasstown yesterday, threatening nearby residences. Firefighters assigned to the Boteler Fire assisted local firefighters under a mutual-aid agreement yesterday afternoon and through the night. The fire was largely contained by midnight at 80 acres.
Camp Branch Fire (Macon County)
The Camp Branch Fire, detected early yesterday morning north of Wayah Road (State Road 1310) and west of the LBJ Job Corps Center, was very active and grew quickly. The nightly infrared flight, which provides mapping data, was canceled due to cloud cover and low visibility. A map showing the precise perimeter and acreage is not yet available. Fire managers estimate that it is at least 800 acres.
Yesterday, firefighters attempted to keep the fire west of Camp Branch Creek, but southwest winds pushed the fire up and over Trimont Ridge in a few places. Crews observed torching fire behavior in rhododendron thickets with flame lengths rising 50 to 100 feet. On the west side, the fire made a run up the eastern slopes of Wayah Bald, and it is currently backing downslope in the Bear Cove area. On the south side, crews conducted firing operations along Wayah Road (SR 1310) to keep the main fire north of the road. Helicopters assisted firefighters on the ground by dropping water. Crews remained on the fire throughout the night.
Today, crews will construct fireline away from the fire’s edge in several places. On the west side, they will work from Forest Road (FR) 69 north of the Wilson Lick heritage site across Rocky Bald Ridge to FR 379B, eventually stopping at Licklog Gap. On the east side, they will work along Locust Tree Brach Road making their way north to Ray Branch and ultimately northwest to Licklog Gap. A structure-protection group will also scout and assess protection needs for residences in the Bear Cove area and along Wayah Road (SR 1310). Aerial support will probably be limited today by low visibility due to persistent cloud cover and fog.
Size: approximately 800 acres Containment: 0 percent Start Date: November 22
Boteler Fire (Clay County)
Though the Boteler Fire remains within present control lines, the ongoing leaf drop and drought conditions continue to challenge containment efforts. Firefighters will continue patrolling and monitoring existing firelines, clearing them out as necessary to prevent escape into unburned areas. Leaves falling within the perimeter will also result in occasional interior reburns, which firefighters are also monitoring. Hotspots detected by aircraft using infrared cameras are being closely monitored extinguished where safe access is possible.
Firefighters are prepared to respond to any new fires in the area.
Size: 9,036 acres Containment: 77 percent Start Date: October 25
Tellico Fire (Swain and Macon Counties)
Crews have made excellent progress on this fire. Staffing as been reduced to eleven firefighters with four engines who are patrolling, mopping up, and blowing leaves off containment lines and extinguishing any remaining hotspots smoldering in duff, freshly fallen leaves, or stumps. Today, they will also work with a resource advisor to identify repair needs in areas affected by fire-suppression activities.
Size: 13,874 acres Containment: 91 percent Start Date: November 3
Maple Springs and Old Roughy Fires (Graham County)
This fire’s containment lines are in good condition after several days of crews extinguishing hotspots along a wide swath adjacent to the firelines. They are also walking the perimeter to blow off freshly fallen leaves as needed. Crews and heavy equipment operators are repairing dozer lines, roads, and other areas affected by fire-suppression activities.
Size: 7,788 acres Containment: 71 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), Cathey Gap (123 ac.), Dick’s Creek (729 ac.). .
Weather and Fire Behavior
Most of the fire area received rain overnight. Morning showers will clear by late today. Cooler weather will continue into the weekend, the relative humidity will not decrease to critical levels, clouds will remain, and winds will be generally westerly. Today, temperatures are expected to hover around 60 degrees. The minimum relative humidity will be in the 40s on the east side of the fire area and in the 60s on the northwest side near the Maple Springs Fire. Winds will in the 10–15 mph range from the west-southwest across the region.
The Camp Branch Fire area received approximately a quarter-inch of rain overnight, and the Boteler Fire two-tenths. The moisture, high relative humidity, and cloud cover will have a temporary moderating effect on fire activity today, slowing the fire’s spread and presenting crews with an opportunity to increase containment. The varied amounts of precipitation is enough to reduce fire behavior today. But with no additional rain in the forecast, Incident Commander Kyle Smith urged crews at this morning’s operational briefing, “Do not become complacent today. Tomorrow, things will dry out again, and we’ll be right back where we were.
· NEW: A segment of Wayah Road (SR 1310) is closed due to the Camp Branch Fire’s proximity. Westbound traffic is stopped at Enloe Farms. Northbound traffic on Crawford Road is being turned around at the junction with Wayah Rd (SR 1310). Eastbound traffic is being stopped at the Wayah Bald Road junction. The road will be reopened as soon as travel safe for the public.
Nantahala National Forest
· NEW: Forest Road 711 is closed from Wayah Road (SR 1310) to Cold Springs Road (SR 1397). The Dirty John Shooting Range is not accessible.
· NEW: The Bartram Trail closure has been expanded. It is now closed from Harrison Gap at FR 713 (Shingletree Road) west to Nantahala Lake.
· Bartram Trail is closed from the trailhead at SR 106 to SR 1643 (Hickory Knoll Road).
· The following trails are closed: Wesser Creek Trail, Whitewater Falls Trail, and Foothills Trail from SR 281 to the Bad Creek access.
· 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.
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).
Joint Information Center (JIC)
The Rock Mountain Fire—which originated in Georgia and is now south of Franklin, North Carolina, and west of US Highway 23—is being managed by Pacific Northwest 3, a type 1 incident management team. Fire information: 470-208-2866 and inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5100/.
Governor’s RewardThe North Carolina governor’s office is offering a reward up to ten thousand dollars for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for setting wildfires in the western part of the state. Contact law enforcement if you have information.