Update: Linville Gorge fire continues, dry weather could challenge containment

Update: Linville Gorge fire continues, dry weather could challenge containment-attachment0

Map of the Linville Gorge fire lines courtesy of the National Forest Service

Yesterday’s rain helped reduce the size of the raging fire in the Linville Gorge Wilderness area from 2,700 acres to about 2,275 acres, but the blaze continues to blanket a popular site for hiking, climbing and camping. Officials are now worried that an upcoming week of warm, dry weather could challenge containment efforts.

Here’s the latest update from National Forest Service, posted Nov. 18:

BURKE COUNTY, N.C.—The Linville Gorge area received about a half inch of rain yesterday, which included the area of the Table Rock wildfire. The fire that started about a week ago is still burning in the gorge on the Grandfather Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest. The fire started in the Table Rock Picnic Area and quickly moved south and east into surrounding terrain. The rain received yesterday was much needed as the area has seen dry conditions for the past few months. However, this fire is not out and the warm, drying period over the next week could be a real test on new containment lines. Winds are expected to gust to 20 miles per hour today and fuels will quickly dry out under these conditions. The fire is located in a very remote area of the gorge that is extremely steep and rugged. Click here to see a map.

There are 193 fire personnel assisting with suppression efforts in the Linville Gorge. A 20 person hand crew from the Oklahoma Bureau of Indian Affairs joined the fire fighting forces today. The fire is still listed at 2,275 acres and 40 percent containment. One structure is located within the containment lines and may be threatened if the fire were to make a run to the south. Crews remain staged to the north at the Outward Bound camp to provide structure protection. Structure protection measures have been applied by fire crews assisted by the property owner. Only one minor vehicle accident which occurred within the first couple of days was reported.

The focus of today’s work is to construct containment lines and remove safety hazards, such as snags, within those lines that could compromise firefighter safety. Crews along the north end will patrol existing containment lines and mop up any “hot spots” they find near the lines. The large Type 1 helicopter was reassigned over the weekend, but is available if bucket drops are needed for suppression. Smaller Type 2 and Type 3 helicopters remain on site for immediate response needs. The contingency plan for fire containment includes using Forest Service Road 118, old dozer lines along the Forest boundary to the south, and hand lines using trails near the river.

The North Carolina Type 3 Team assessed complexity of the fire over the weekend. Concerns regarding the steep terrain, lack of access, an increase in firefighters, multiple jurisdictions with the state becoming more involved, and predicted weather patterns for this week changed the complexity of the fire to a Type 2 incident. This complexity results in a change in command structure on the fire. The Southern Area Type 2 Team was ordered today and will transition with the Type 3 team tomorrow, and take command of the fire on Wednesday. This new team will bring with them additional resources to help in suppression efforts.

Several roads and trails remain closed in the Linville Gorge area. A complete list can be found on the National Forests in North Carolina website. Visitors should check the website before planning a trip to the gorge.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. However, fire investigators would appreciate talking with the group who were camping at Table Rock Picnic Area last Monday, Veteran’s Day.  Investigators believe this group has information that would aid in the investigation. A reward may be offered for substantial information regarding this investigation and persons should contact Law Enforcement Officer Jason Crisp at 828-442-2470 or the Grandfather Ranger District at 828-652-2144.

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Jake Frankel is an award-winning writer and reporter who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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