Officials declare emergency in North Carolina, big fire in Virginia

Officials have declared a state of emergency in a western North Carolina community where a wildfire has burned hundreds of acres and is threatening dozens of homes. It was estimated at 5 percent containment this afternoon.

According to the North Carolina Forest Service there was  one home damaged and two homes destroyed, along with one outbuilding and one uninhabited cabin; reported that the cause of the Poplar Drive Fire is  under  investigation. There have been no reported injuries.

The 431-acre fire in Henderson County threatens at least 75 other threatened structures; North Carolina Forest Service is focusing on putting in firelines.

CBS-19 out of Charlottesville reported that crews are also  fighting several separate fires in forested areas of Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky as wide swaths of those states face moderate to severe drought conditions and warmer-than-normal temperatures.

Several counties in western North Carolina are currently in a severe drought, with wildfire activity increasing in the dry conditions. The North Carolina Forest Service issued a burn ban Sunday for 14 counties in the western part of the state because of hazardous conditions and said the ban  would stay in effect until further notice.

Q code: aim your camera here.Meanwhile, the Virginia Department of Forestry and the National Park Service are managing the 2800-acre Quaker Run Fire under unified command with Madison County Emergency Management. Their goals this afternoon included keeping the fire east of Rapidan Road and prepping both Rapidan Camp and Camp Hoover. Another priority is protecting power poles in the fire area.  Resources include Type 3 and Type 1 helicopters, and listed hazards included rolling rocks and continued falling snags.

Shenandoah National Park fire
Quaker Run Fire 11/06/2023 — NPS map by Justin Shedd

Park officials cautioned that visitors will encounter smoke in some areas; the fire is  burning on private, public, and park land on the eastern boundary near Whiteoak and Old Rag. The Quaker Run Fire includes about 670 acres within the Shenandoah National Park boundary. Updates on the air quality status is available online through the Wildland Fire Air Quality Response Program. Updates are published daily by 8:00 a.m.

The powerline that supplies the Big Meadows area has been de-energized for firefighter safety. Big Meadows Wayside, the visitor center, and the campground are open and using generators. Some visitor amenities may be limited, and Big Meadows Lodge is closed for the season.

Virginia fire
Helicopters offer a good vantage point for monitoring the fire’s progression, especially in steep, mountainous terrain.  Virginia DOF photo

Fire weather forecast: High pressure is overhead but should slide offshore late Monday. Gusty south winds should return as the warm front lifts into the region. Gusts of 20-30 mph are possible at the fire location, and winds will be even higher on the ridges through Tuesday evening. Minimum humidities will remain around 35-40 percent across the Shenandoah Valley, with a predicted 40-45 percent east of the Blue Ridge. By Tuesday, these values are expected to improve as moisture builds back into the region.

Smoke is heaviest in the communities of Syria and Madison, which are closest to the fire, and in the central portion of the Park near Big Meadows, Whiteoak, and Old Rag. Smoke typically settles into low-lying areas in the evening and overnight, remains heavy in those areas in the morning, then lifts out in early afternoon. Smoke at Big Meadows is usually most noticeable in early afternoon as it is lifting or in the evening when smoke begins to settle. Hikers are encouraged to avoid the central part of the park.

 ~ Thanks and a tip of the hardhat to Matt and Cary.

North Carolina fire reaches 3500 acres

The Pulp Road Fire in Brunswick County reached 3,500 acres today and was still at zero percent containment. The 15,000-acre preserve where it’s burning crosses Brunswick and Columbus counties and is designated a National Natural Landmark. According to the N.C. Forest Service, the area was cleared of unburned fuels outside the fire perimeter, and crews had mopped up spot fires.

Pulp Road Fire

The N.C. Forest Service — one of several state forestry agencies in the U.S. that are named “Forest Service” — has mobilized its Red Incident Management Team to take over the fire. Resources earlier today included multiple engine and tractor plow strike teams plus aircraft. The PortCityDaily out of Wilmington reported that personnel will staff the fire through the weekend.

The state DEQ raised air pollution alerts to red in Brunswick County and orange in both New Hanover and Pender counties.

According to the Wilmington Star News, the fire initially was lit as a controlled burn in the Green Swamp Game Land and Green Swamp Nature Preserve, but yesterday the fire burned out of control and was classified as a wildfire. It nearly doubled in size since Thursday night. Smoke is thick in some areas and it is affecting visibility; officials have urged drivers to use caution.

State and local officials urged residents with respiratory issues to remain indoors.

Earth Day is a quiet fire day – except for coastal North Carolina

On April 22, 2023, Earth Day 2023,  the largest fire of national note is burning in North Carolina.

For April 21, the most recent update of the national portal for the Geographic Area Coordination Centers – because it’s not quite busy enough for weekend staffing – there are three GACCs at Preparedness Level 2 – Eastern, Southern, and Southwest – while the rest of the country is at PL 1.  And a scan of national-level fire hazards doesn’t show any Red Flag Warnings or Watches for the day.

For the prior week, national initial attack activity in the National Situation Report was considered light at 1,075 fires, with 50 large fires reported and 50 contained. Fire names ranged from a label only an agency can love (AR-BUP-000924 in the Buffalo National River)  to a menagerie of animals – Swine, Third Goat, Antelope Flats, Wolf Creek, Otter Creek, Kingfisher Hollow – to the uniquely local – Natural Bridge (named for the actual Natural Bridge in Kentucky), Muzzle Loader Club (perhaps the local shooting range in Oklahoma?), Jimmys Water Hole in New Jersey and Shinhollow in New York, and Tinaja in southern Arizona (translated from the Spanish as “large earthenware jar”).

The Fire Weather Outlook for Earth Day was minimal except for southwest Arizona. The Day 2 Fire Weather Outlook for today noted that “Elevated conditions are likely near the international border in the Lower Colorado River Basin, as 15 mph sustained southwesterly surface winds overlap with 15 percent humidity for a few hours around afternoon peak heating. Elevated highlights were added since fuels should be marginally receptive to fire spread.” Looking ahead, the only fire hazard of note in the fire weather outlook is for the New Mexico-Texas-Mexico area on Tuesday-Wednesday, April 25-26.

All this being duly noted, one can be certain that residents near the Great Lakes Fire will agree that this fire (also called the Great Lake Fire) likely holds claim to being Earth Day’s fire of note in the U.S. Named for a singular Great Lake, with other lakes around it, in the Croatan National Forest), the fire quadrupled in size in 24 hours, from 7000 to an estimated 30,000+ acres, with a national Southern Area fire management team being assigned.

As noted yesterday in our partner site,, the VIIRS satellite data offered space-based mapping of  yesterday’s growth that was confirmed in the map available today from the Risk Management Assistance Dashboard … compared to yesterday’s rapid spread, the majority of recent heat signatures are to the north, where the fire is burning into and between past fuel treatments. The fire has definitely outgrown the 21,000 acre footprint of 2012’s Dad Fire.

Great Lake Fire Croatan NF NC 2023-04-22

Additional mapping is being shared by Joseph Elfelt …

And current info arrives from a variety of Twitter posts with the handle of #GreatLakeFire (no plural) …

A recent tweet equated the fire’s size to the acreage of DisneyWorld, which, in case you were curious, was forecast to have average crowds for Earth Day according to the Magic Guides Crowd Calendar.

There is no current estimate for how many firefighters are working the Great Lake(s) Fire, though it’s certainly increasing. Yesterday’s census for the Southern Area had some 1200 resources assigned in the overall GACC area.

Wildfire in eastern North Carolina grows to 5,200 acres

A North Carolina fire has spread across several thousand acres and had reached about 34 percent containment by late Sunday afternoon.

Last Resort Fire photo by North Carolina Forest Service
Last Resort Fire photo by North Carolina Forest Service

The News & Observer reported that the Last Resort Fire is burning on both private and federal lands in rural Tyrrell County. After firing operations on Saturday, the fire was estimated at 5,800 acres. That was revised downward  late Sunday.

eastern North Carolina

The North Carolina Forest Service said the fire’s burning near Columbia, just south of the Albemarle Sound. Joint command has been established with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

North Carolina fires to date
2023 North Carolina fires to date

Light rain moderated conditions late yesterday, and crews are working on containment lines. Fire managers cautioned that smoke may impair driving conditions in the area; about 75 firefighters from both the state and U.S. Fish and Wildlife were assigned. A Type 3 IMT took over management Sunday.

13NewsNow reported that the fire may cause smoky conditions on the Outer Banks and was producing heavy drifting smoke to the east of the fire.

03/27/ update: People from as far north as Washington D.C. are complaining of smoke smell.

Two wildfires in the Pisgah National Forest in NC burn 80 acres

Map Cals Creek Fire wildfire north carolina
Map showing the flight path of a Cessna 185 operated by the State of North Carolina orbiting the area of the Cals Creek Fire east of Otto, NC.

About 65 firefighters are working to suppress two wildfires in North Carolina that have burned a total of 80 acres.

U.S. Forest Service firefighters are responding to two significant fires, including the Camp Daniel Boone Fire that has burned into the Shining Rock Wilderness on the Pisgah National Forest.

The fire started on private property off Little East Fork Rd. in Haywood County Friday afternoon, April 3 and has spread into the Shining Rock Wilderness Area on the Pisgah Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest. It has burned 50 acres near the Art Loeb Trail west of Deep Gap. Approximately 40 firefighters are responding from the North Carolina Forest Service and U.S. Forest Service. NC Forest Service helicopters and air tankers made multiple water drops yesterday to try to slow the spread. A U.S. Forest Service helicopter is on scene again today. The northern Art Loeb and Little East Fork trailheads are closed due to the fire and hiking to Deep Gap or the peak of Cold Mountain is discouraged.

The Cals Creek Fire is burning east of Highway 23/441 in Macon County near Otto, NC. The 30-acre fire started on private property and is now also burning on U.S. Forest Service land in the Nantahala Ranger District of the Nantahala National Forest. Approximately 25 firefighters from the NC Forest Service and U.S. Forest Service are responding. A NC Forest Service helicopter was used for water drops yesterday.

The causes of both fires are under investigation.

State and Federal firefighters responded to multiple additional wildfire starts across Western NC yesterday. U.S. Forest Service firefighters also responded to a small fire on the Uwharrie National Forest in the NC Piedmont.

Fire danger is expected to remain high through the weekend. The North Carolina Forest Service issued a ban on all open burning for 32 Western North Carolina counties due to hazardous forest fire conditions. The burning ban goes went into effect at 5 p.m. Friday, April 3, 2020, and will remain in effect until further notice.

Recalling Forest Service Chief’s visit to the number one ranked Job Corps Center

In light of the announcement to transfer  the management of  25 Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers from the U.S. Forest Service to the Department of Labor (DOL) and to permanently close 9 of those 25 centers, it is interesting to look back on a story written and published by the Forest Service nine months ago about then Interim Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen’s visit to “the number one Job Corps Center out of 123 nationwide.” She was later confirmed as Chief of the Forest Service.

The text and photos below are from the Forest Service article posted at

Interim Chief Vicki Christiansen, Schenck Job Corps celebrate number one ranking

Schenck Job Corps Center Chief Christiansen
From left, Forests of North Carolina Forest Supervisor Allen Nicholas, USDA Forest Service Interim Chief Vicki Christiansen, Southern Research Station Director Rob Doudrick, and Southern Region Acting Regional Forester Ken Arney preserve the memory of their visit by posing alongside the Schenck Job Corps sign. USDA Forest Service photo by Marvin Ramsey.

NORTH CAROLINA – “Look for the fire that burns within you and gives you the juice. You are capable of doing anything you put your mind to.” USDA Forest Service Interim Chief Vicki Christiansen offered these words of advice to the students at Schenck Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center, located on the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina.

Christiansen journeyed to Schenck Job Corps Center on September 26, 2018, to congratulate the students and staff on the center’s remarkable Program Year 2017 performance. The center’s program year ended on June 30, 2018 and resulted in it being ranked as the number one Job Corps Center out of 123 nationwide. Not only did Schenck achieve the number one overall ranking, it also ranked number one in graduate job placement.

Having also been recognized as the number one center in 2014, this is a repeat performance for Schenck within a span of five years. Job Corps Centers are evaluated on weighted measures and performance goals that include credential and high school diploma attainment, job placement and wages.

Along with Schenck, eleven other Forest Service Job Corps Centers–Flatwoods, Trapper Creek, Frenchburg, Blackwell, Centennial, Curlew, Wolf Creek, Weber Basin, Anaconda, Pine Knot and Lyndon B. Johnson–finished in the top 50 of the 123 Job Corps Centers.

“Having the Chief here is really cool,” said Rosalyn Velasquez, a member of Schenck’s Advanced Fire Management Program and its associated Davidson River Initial Attack Crew. The DVR has built a stellar reputation with its 100% graduation rate and consistent graduate job placement into career positions with the Forest Service and other public lands management agencies. The DVR students were impressed that, like them, Christiansen began her career as a wildland firefighter and has now risen to the heights of her current position.

Christiansen was enthusiastic about the value Civilian Conservation Centers bring to the Forest Service. In PY17 alone, Job Corps students contributed 42,912 hours to national forests and grasslands project work. These hours equate to a dollar contribution of $1,059,497. Additionally, Job Corps students have contributed approximately 460,000 hours to wildland fire support and 5,000 hours to hurricane support.

Schenck Job Corps Center Chief Christiansen
Having begun her career as a wildland firefighter and state forester, Forest Service Interim Chief Vicki Christiansen, recalls her classes studying fire behavior with members of the Davidson River Initial Attack Crew. USDA Forest Service photo by Marvin Ramsey.

Christiansen offered wise advice to the students on how to approach a job as they begin their careers. “Good leaders first learned to be good followers,” she stated before sharing this fable. “One day a traveler came upon three bricklayers and inquired what are you doing? The first one replied ‘laying these brick,’ the second one replied ‘working as a member of this team’, while the third replied ‘I’m part of this team that is building this grand cathedral.’” Christiansen ended by saying, “The moral of the fable of ‘The Three Bricklayers’ is that we all have our roles.”

Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers changes lives one student at a time by equipping them with valuable skills to help them find jobs and support the nation’s economy. Along with supporting the Forest Service national priority of promoting shared stewardship, Civilian Conservation Centers also provide critical support to their local communities and, in PY17, volunteered 60,274 hours to community projects, equating to a dollar contribution of $1,488,156.

Schenck Job Corps Center Chief Christiansen
From left, Davidson River Initial Attack Crew enjoy a picture with Forest Service leaders. Southern Research Station Director Rob Doudrick, Southern Region Acting Regional Forester Ken Arney, USDA Forest Service Interim Chief Vicki Christiansen, Schenck Job Corps Davidson River Initial Attack Crew members David Williams, Joseph Mousseaux, Austin Griffin, Cortney Brown, Christopher Sanchez, Osman Guzman-Reyes, Abdusalam Ibrahim, Joseph Woods, Richard Alidon, Trevon Lindsay, Dylan Hobbs, Lerron Dugars, Trey Brandenburg, Walter Moore, Shavonte Crosby, Taj Pham, Richard Bostic, Rosalyn Velasquez, Patrique Hall, Samuel Leach, Schenck Job Corps Works Program Officer Kenneth Barton, Job Corps National Office Acting Assistant Director Jimmy Copeland, and National Forests of North Carolina Forest Supervisor Allen Nicholas. USDA Forest Service photo by Marvin Ramsey.