By Harley Nefe
A wildfire burning in the Wilson Creek area of the Grandfather Ranger District in Avery Country was reported during the afternoon of December 24. The fire, known as the Lost Cove Fire, began near Bee Mountain in a remote part of the Lost Cove Wilderness Study Area, which is 10 miles southwest of Linville.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, the fire was initially estimated at 350 acres. Throughout Friday, the fire was 10% contained. Firefighters worked throughout the weekend to secure firelines, and containment has since grown to 20%. However, the fire spread with low intensity to approximately 700 acres.
The U.S. Forest Service described that firefighting efforts were helped Sunday by a brief period of light rainfall as well as higher humidity levels, which led to minimal fire growth.
“These moderating conditions allowed firefighters to complete fireline construction to protect private property near the Roseboro community,” the U.S. Forest Service said. “Higher humidity conditions have moderated fire behavior, and the fire is primarily burning through leaf litter at low to moderate intensities. Increases in acreage are due not only to this fire spread, but improved mapping of the fire perimeter.”
Firefighters have been focusing on protecting resources on the northwest end of the fire, and the U.S. Forest Service reported that the fire is expected to continue to burn at low intensities to the south and east into the Lost Cove Wilderness Study Area along Timber Ridge until significant rain is received, and no homes or structures are threatened.
As the fire spreads, the U.S. Forest Service said firefighters are continuing to monitor and improve the fireline. Fire managers are monitoring the fire as it backs down to Lost Cove Creek and Gragg Prong, which will provide containment lines to the south and east.
While the response effort continues, emergency trail closures are in place for the Timber Ridge Trail, Lost Cove Loop Trail, Huntfish Falls Trail, Darkside Cliffs Trail and The Mountains to Sea Trail along Gragg Prong between Roseboro and Pineola Roads.
18 firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service and the North Carolina Forest Service are responding in addition to local fire departments from Collettsville and Linville.
The public is asked to avoid any recreational activities in the Lost Cove Wilderness Study Area until the fire is fully contained.
The U.S. Forest Service said, “We would especially like to thank the firefighters for their response and sacrifices over the Christmas holiday. The public is asked to avoid the area so as not to interfere with firefighting operations. Please be cautious with fire as conditions will remain unseasonably warm and dry throughout the area over the next several days.”
The cause of the Lost Cove Fire is still under investigation, but the U.S. Forest Service said it is suspected to be human caused.
Photos courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service: