11-26-2016 Update: Boteler, Maple Springs, and Nantahala Branch Fires
Incident: Knob Fire Wildfire
9 crews, 36 engines, 5 helicopters, 2 tankers, 11 dozers, 3 water tender, 1 skidgine, 464 total personnel, 34,619 total acres
No new fire starts were detected yesterday on the three Nantahala National Forest districts that the Blue Team has initial-attack responsibility for—Cheoah, Tusquitee, and Nantahala. Crews are positioned to respond to any new fires and are regularly monitoring twenty-three fires in patrol status (see list below).
Camp Branch Fire (Macon County)
The fire was active yesterday afternoon as the fire-behavior analyst predicted, but crews were prepared and positioned around structures. They completed fireline construction away from the main fire (i.e., indirect fireline) and prepared structures for today’s planned firing operation. Large type-1 helicopters dropped water on the spot fire in the Ray Branch drainage, keeping it in check. The size of the spot fire was confirmed by aerial mapping at approximately 60 acres. Because relative-humidity levels did not recover last night, the fire remained active, but night-shift crews observed fire behavior and patrolled and protected structures throughout the night.
Today, crews will conduct two firing operations. On the west side they will start at Wayah Bald and move southwest along Forest Road 69 to Wilson Lick, where they will connect with a hand-constructed fireline. They will slowly and carefully proceed around private cabins between FR 69 and Wayah Road (State Road 1310). On the east side, from the top of Trimont Ridge, they will work down the north- and south-facing slopes from Wayah Bald east to Locust Tree Branch Road. On south-facing slopes of Trimont Ridge, the fire will work its way slowly downslope into the Camp Branch drainage and Locust Tree Gap. On north-facing slopes of Trimont Ridge, which are shaded from the sun and where fire behavior should be minimal, fire managers expect it to back slowly downslope to the Left Prong of Ray Branch Creek. This firing operation will generate significant amounts of smoke that will be visible from nearby communities.
Size: 1,363 acres Containment: 20 percent Start Date: November 22
Boteler Fire (Clay County)
Crews will begin the repair phase of fire suppression today, which consists of repairing areas damaged by fire-suppression activities—such as firelines, helispots, and staging areas—and minimizing potential soil erosion. One way to reduce soil erosion and gully formation is to construct water bars, which slow the flow of water and redirect it off trail and road surfaces. Firefighters will continue mopping up and patrolling containment lines around the fire’s perimeter. If the planned firing operations on the Camp Branch Fire take place today, significant smoke will be visible, and depending on the vantage point, it might appear as though the Boteler Fire has become active. This will not be the case as the Boteler Fire has no fire activity producing significantly visible amounts of smoke.
Size: 9,036 acres Containment: 77 percent Start Date: October 25
Tellico Fire (Swain and Macon Counties)
In addition to monitoring and patrolling containment lines, firefighters assigned to this fire are working with local resource advisors to identify areas affected by fire-suppression activities that need to be repaired. Equipment and other resources are en route, and repair work will begin when they arrive.
Size: 13,874 acres Containment: 95 percent Start Date: November 3
Maple Springs and Old Roughy Fires (Graham County)
In most areas where the fire burned within the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness, the steep, rugged, inaccessible terrain was too dangerous for firefighters to enter and suppress the fire by constructing handline. Instead, scooper planes took water from Santeelah Lake and dropped it on the fire’s edge to create a so-called wet line. Along with natural barriers, the wet line eventually halted the fire’s progression. Because firefighters are unable to patrol the wet line on foot, an aerial observer monitors it every day, and a plane with infrared mapping technology is used every night to locate pockets of lingering heat. The most recent flight detected one hotspot well inside the containment line. Fire managers are confident that this isolated heat source does not pose a threat to natural barriers or firelines.
Crews are patrolling and monitoring containment lines outside the wilderness. They are nearly finished repairing roads, firelines, staging areas, and drop points that were constructed during or impacted by fire-suppression activities. For example, where old roadbeds were converted into dozer line, heavy-equipment operators will construct water bars, cover the roadbed surface with nearby woody debris, and then seed with annual ryegrass, all to minimize the effects of erosion before the disturbed area becomes vegetated.
Size: 7,788 acres Containment: 78 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.), Tellico (13,874).
Weather and Fire Behavior
Expect mostly clear skies but cooler weather today, with maximum temperatures in the 50s. Winds should be light, from the northwest, not much more than 10 mph. The minimum relative humidity will be in the 40s. The incident meteorologist’s models have been consistently predicting a rain event beginning Tuesday, November 29, which could bring an inch or more of rain.
Because critical fire-weather conditions are very unlikely, fire behavior is expected to be moderate today and only on the Camp Branch Fire. The fire will be most active on southern slopes, where the sun heats the ground and terrain-driven, upslope winds develop. The fire-behavior potential on fires in patrol status is limited to interior reburning as leaves drop only where the ground is retaining heat, which is why those fires continue to be patrolled on a regular basis despite being at or near 100-percent containment.
· 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 bit.ly/2fArtYf.
· 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 bit.ly/2g1iPm1.
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 can be obtained at 470-208-2866 and inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5100/.
North Carolina is offering a reward up to $10,000 to be issued to anyone who provides information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for setting wildfires in western North Carolina. Anyone having information concerning these wildfires should contact Macon County Crimestoppers at 828-349-2600 or Jackson County Crimestoppers at 828-631-1125.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs is also seeking information regarding arson fires on Indian Lands of North Carolina through the WeTip Program. Up to $10,000 is being offered through this anonymous program. WeTip can be contacted through its website wetip.com or by calling its hotline 800-47-ARSON (800-472-7766).