11-25-2016 Update: Boteler, Maple Springs, and Nantahala Branch Fires
Incident: Knob Fire Wildfire
10 crews, 39 engines, 7 helicopters, 2 tankers, 11 dozers, 7 water tender, 1 skidgine, 631 total personnel, 34,619 total acres
Yesterday, on the three districts of the Nantahala National Forest that the Blue Team has initial-attack responsibility for—Cheoah, Tusquitee, and Nantahala—there were no new fire starts. Crews remain positioned around the districts to respond to any new fires. They are also regularly monitoring the twenty-three fires that are in patrol status (see list below).
Camp Branch Fire (Macon County)
On Wednesday, when the fire was so active and making a run up the east side of Wayah Bald, it spotted approximately three-quarters of a mile to the north in the Ray Branch drainage. Because the infrared flight was cancelled Wednesday night and rain likely tamped down smoke, the spot fire was not detected until yesterday afternoon when an aerial observer noticed it during a helicopter reconnaissance flight. The spot fire is approximately 5 acres and is south of the Licklog Gap area, where crews are constructing indirect fireline. Also during Wednesday’s run up Wayah Bald, the fire burned the historic Wayah Bald Tower’s wooden roof and destroyed a private cabin.
Wednesday night’s precipitation did have a moderating affect yesterday on fire behavior, which consisted primarily of creeping and smoldering. Crews took advantage of the weather working in their favor and made significant progress. The tree-felling crew removed numerous hazard trees, particularly along Wayah Road (SR 1310). The structure-protection group worked to secure private residences south of Wayah Bald along Wayah Road and in Bear Cove. Crews constructed approximately a quarter-mile of indirect handline. They also completed approximately 5 miles of dozer line construction and existing road improvements.
Today, crews expect to complete indirect-fireline construction. On the west side, the fireline extends from Forest Road (FR) 69 north to Rocky Bald Ridge and to FR 379B, eventually ending at Licklog Gap. On the east side, the fireline goes north from Locust Tree Brach Road to Ray Branch and then northwest to Licklog Gap. The structure-protection group will continue to monitor private residences north of Wayah Road (SR 1310). Aerial support will be available to firefighters on the ground should they need it.
Size: 1,363 acres Containment: 20 percent Start Date: November 22
Boteler Fire (Clay County)
Yesterday’s wetting rain will provide firefighters with one more day of moderate fire behavior as they continue to mop up and maintain containment lines. Although minimal smoke will be present in the fire’s interior, the ground is holding significant heat, especially where rain was unable to penetrate the leafy tree canopy. Crews will closely monitor an interior fire in the Arch Ridge area north of the Mountain Meadows community.
Size: 9,036 acres Containment: 77 percent Start Date: October 25
Tellico Fire (Swain and Macon Counties)
The Tellico Fire’s containment lines have been tested several times and are holding, and at 95-percent contained, the fire will be soon put into patrol status. The eleven firefighters with four engines who remain assigned to the fire are patrolling, mopping up, and blowing leaves off containment lines where needed. They are also working with an incident resource advisor to identify repair needs in areas affected by fire-suppression activities. Crews will begin the repair work in the coming days.
Size: 13,874 acres Containment: 95 percent Start Date: November 3
Maple Springs and Old Roughy Fires (Graham County)
Firefighters continue to patrol and mop up containment lines. Crews are repairing areas affected by fire-suppression activities. For example, where mineral soil is exposed on handlines, they are raking it to create a rough surface, spreading annual ryegrass seed, and raking leaves over the seed to act as mulch. The short-lived grass will minimize erosion until native plants can get reestablished.
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 (6 ac.), Falls (NA), Grape Cove (11 ac.), Moses Creek (30 ac.), Jones Gap (8 ac.), Jarrett Knob (NA), Wine Spring (93 ac.), Mulberry (1 ac.), Moss Knob(7 ac.), May Branch (175 ac.), Boardtree (0.5 ac.), Charley Creek (6 ac.), Nick (0.2 ac.), Ridge Gap (1 ac.), Ferebee (now Tellico), Cliffside (110 ac.), Whitewater (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
A high-pressure system slowly building eastward will be over the fire area this weekend. Despite a drying trend, critical fire weather is unlikely as cloudiness and mild temperatures are expected to prevail. This morning’s dense fog is not likely to lift until late morning. The maximum temperature should be in the low 60s with winds up to 11 mph and a minimum relative humidity in the 50s. The incident meteorologist’s models are not showing significant precipitation until early December.
Moderate weather will correlate with moderate fire behavior. Firefighters are very unlikely to experience the large, fast-moving flame fronts that they did on Wednesday. However, as the sun dries grasses and downed leaves, twigs, and branches on exposed southern slopes, fire activity could increase slightly in those areas.
· Due to the Camp Branch Fire, a segment of Wayah Road (SR 1310) is closed to through traffic; residents who live in the closed section are allowed access to their property. Westbound traffic is stopped at Enloe Farms. Eastbound traffic is being stopped at the Wayah Bald Road junction. Northbound traffic on Crawford Road is being turned around at the junction with Wayah Rd (SR 1310). The road will be reopened as soon as travel safe for the public.
Nantahala National Forest
· Forest Road 711 is closed from Wayah Road (SR 1310) to Cold Springs Road (SR 1397). The Dirty John Shooting Range is not accessible.
· The Bartram Trail is closed from Harrison Gap at FR 713 (Shingletree Road) west to Nantahala Lake and from the trailhead at SR 106 to SR 1643 (Hickory Knoll Road).
· The following trails are closed: Wesser Creek, Whitewater Falls, and Foothills 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.