From my hilltop, I have been looking at hazy mountains to the north for two weeks. Some days, we are unable to see Grandfather Mtn, and never Mt. Mitchell. Where do they go? They are hidden by smoke.
It all began on Friday, November 4, when benign gray plumes arose about 5 miles away. I could see them wisping and waving all day as I sat in my loft office. Not to worry, I thought, since the fire department was only a mile from there, toward the eastern end of the valley. When the winds picked up, I checked on them frequently. We have not had rain in a month, and I live in a log house surrounded by colorful dead leaves.
The wind increased, as did the width of the smoke. My neighbor called the fire department, “just to make sure someone knows.” Another neighbor emailed the location of the fire, and it was closer than I thought, so we jumped into the car to make sure we would have a back door “just in case.” No worries, the fire was actually where I thought it was but the smoke was deceiving.
However, in the dark of night, the red glow could not be hidden. I checked on the fire until I was certain it was diminishing. I also emailed my friend Richard Buchanan who owns a historic farm in that area. I imagined his gold miner’s cabin going up in flames. He assured me it was fine, and he had driven his tractors to a safe distance, “just in case.” A couple days later, our “little” fire that consumed only 30 or so acres became unworthy of news. It was overshadowed by Fires, the kind that make the forest animals panic.
To our west, Party Rock at Lake Lure was ablaze on Saturday, November 5. The cause is being investigated. By November 15, about 3,537 acres had burned and it is only 20% contained. The historic Esmeralda Inn was in danger at one point, but since the winds have died down, her future looks good due to the diligence of the fire fighters who have come to help from all over the country. The Village of Chimney Rock was
evacuated, according to WLOS, News 13. Four hundred firefighters are working to save this area.
From Ron @FB, who lives in Charlotte:
“Firefighters from Charlotte and several neighboring towns have deployed to western North Carolina, where a rash of wildfires has destroyed more than 23,000 acres. Chimney Rock is under mandatory evacuation, and boating is discouraged on Lake Lure, as an unpredictable blaze in that area remains largely uncontained. Gov. Pat McCrory declared an emergency for 25 counties late last week, extending into the western reaches of the Charlotte region, and smoke from the fires has impacted air quality even in the Queen City.”
To our east South Mountains is on fire. Chestnut Knob where we had hiked this summer with family and neighbors caught fire on Sunday, November 6, and this fire is also under investigation. To date, 4,600 acres have been lost, and only 30% contained. I just heard, on Nov 16, that the Bob community is being evacuated to Morganton. (Edit: 5,689 acres per News Herald reporter on Thursday morning, November 17.)
The Charlotte Observer reported a code orange air quality alert on November 14 due to the “44,000 acres burning in western North Carolina.” Most of these are in the Nantahala Forest in the far western corner. Today, on November 16, it is now red.
This past Sunday, a friend from another development sent me news that the Boy Scout camp was on fire in Dysartsville. Remember the sign that stands where the old post office used to be? I told you about it last month: at the corner of Vein Mtn Road and Hiway 226. My contact in Charlotte posted a photo of it on FB. Fortunately only one building was engaged, and nobody injured.
Our local volunteers at the fire department have been busy this fall. They deserve the “new” facility they have, and we are grateful for their service. Two years ago they responded quickly to a fire on the next hill. A log home was lost, along with several acres, but no other structures were damaged. Grandparents, kids, and baby got out safely. At the last second, but safe.
Smokey Bear says, “Only YOU can prevent forest fires.” Please do.
Copyright 2016 Georgia Wilson