Drift Smoke Blows Into High Country as Burn Ban Continues, Several Fires Ongoing in WNC

Published Tuesday, November 8, 2016 at 1:44 pm
NWS Blacksburg (@NWSBlacksburg) tweeted at 0:52 PM on Tue, Nov 08, 2016: Scent of smoke, hazy sky as smoke from upstream wildfires moves into the region.

NWS Blacksburg (@NWSBlacksburg) tweeted at 0:52 PM on Tue, Nov 08, 2016:
Scent of smoke, hazy sky as smoke from upstream wildfires moves into the region.

By Jesse Wood

With several wildfires burning in Western North Carolina and the persistent dry conditions, firefighters across Western North Carolina don’t have time to wonder whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is going to win the presidential election tonight.

Around lunchtime on Tuesday afternoon, Watauga County Forest Ranger Stuart Scott was responding to a one-acre fire, which Deep Gap and Champion fire departments extinguished, in the Deep Gap area.

“We are hoping that [no other fires occur today] and we are just chasing some smoke reports,” Scott said. “Anything we can do to let people know that conditions are ripe for ignition and there should be no burning under any circumstances.”

Drift smoke makes for a hazy view of Grandfather Mountain on Tuesday. Photo by Ken Ketchie

Drift smoke makes for a hazy view of Grandfather Mountain on Tuesday. Photo by Ken Ketchie

En route to another fire call in Caldwell County near Cone Orchard, Stuart referred High Country Press to Assistant District Forester Justin Query of N.C. Forest District 2, which covers an eight-county territory in Western North Carolina, including the High Country.

Yesterday, the N.C. Forest Service cancelled burning permits and issued a burn ban for 25 mountain counties, including Avery, Caldwell and Watauga, because of the ongoing drought. The ban prohibits all open burning, which includes burning leaves, branches and other plant material. See more about the ban here, which if violated carries a $100 fine plus court costs of $180.

Yesterday, more than 200 people attended a town hall meeting to discuss the Boteler Fire and other Nantahala district fires, which include Dick’s Creek, Knob, Tellico, Ferebee, Cliffside, Whitewater, May Branch and Buck Creek fires and the monitoring and patrolling of several other areas.

In the High Country, smoke has been prevalent in the air, leading to the Boone Police Department tweeting: “Drift smoke around the High Country is from the wildfires over western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee.”

Asked about the drift smoke, Query mentioned other fires, including, a fire being cleaned up at Sawmills and two fires in the South Mountains State Park, where there is a 150-acre fire near the park office and another five-acre fire on the other end of the park, closer toward residences. See list of fires here. 

And looking at the weather forecast doesn’t offer much hope.

“There’s a chance of rain in the forecast tonight, but it’s pretty slim at 20 to 40 percent. On the flipside of that, with that chance of rain, we’re also getting a wind event,” Query said. “It’s not looking good for tomorrow if this rain doesn’t amount to anything.”

Just as Scott noted, Query stressed that folks adhere to the burn ban.

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