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.
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.
Interim Chief Vicki Christiansen, Schenck Job Corps celebrate number one ranking
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.
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.
Mop-up efforts on the Squires Timber Fire in Pender County concluded this week and it’s now in monitor status. NCFS rangers are keeping an eye on this to make sure it stays out. About three acres of the wildfire were in a Carolina bay with heavy organic soils which made for challenging control as the fire burned as much as two feet deep. The 8-acre wildfire began April 29 but flared back up after long, hot, and dry days. The initial cause was an escaped debris burn.
Earlier today we wrote about the three-day, three-fire, three-state road trip where a group of us boarded a very comfortable bus, or coach, and toured the sites of three large fires that occurred last fall in North Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee.
Here are some photos, taken by Bill Gabbert. If you click on a photo, you’ll see larger versions. The captions are in the top-left.
Above: Fire Management Officer Jeff Schardt talks about managing the Rough Ridge Fire.
I had never heard of a organized multi-day road trip that involved visiting several large fires that burned in previous years, so when the Consortium of Appalachian Fire Managers and Scientists (CAFMS) distributed notices about one I was very interested. Their plans were to spend about a half day each at three fires in three states over a three-day period. The fires occurred last fall in North Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee. Since they were pretty far apart the remaining half days were devoted to traveling in a bus (or coach) to the sites. At each location we would meet with local subject matter experts that would explain how the fires were managed, the effects on the natural resources, and the social issues.
So I signed up.
The expedition was primarily organized by two folks from the CAFMS, the director Helen Mohr, and Jenifer Bunty, their Public Information Coordinator.
Ms. Mohr is a researcher that has been working with the USFS’ Southern Research Station until recently when she was selected as Director for the CAFSM, and said she now spends most of her time with that organization.
Ms. Bunty has bachelor’s degrees in biology and Russian, obtained a master’s in biology, has conducted research in the Russian Far East, and has worked for the Southern Blue Ridge Fire Learning Network. She is now working remotely for the CAFSM from China (yes, that China), but commuted to the Southeast for this road trip.
There were approximately 12 to 15 people that were on the journey for all three days, but at each stop others joined to talk about or learn about that particular fire. At the Rough Ridge Fire two or three dozen students from Clemson University’s forestry summer camp joined us.
Day 1 of the Road Trip, June 6, the Party Rock Fire
This fire started November 5, 2016 and blackened about 7,100 acres mostly in Chimney Rock State Park at Lake Lure in western North Carolina.
We met the first day at 8 a.m. in Flat Rock, North Carolina where we boarded the coach for a 30-minute trip to Lake Lure and heard presentations by the officials from Chimney Rock State Park and the mayors of Lake Lure and Chimney Rock Village. They discussed the effects on their populations, the evacuations, and the suppression of the fire.
Then after viewing the fire in the distance from a viewpoint, the group began a strenuous hike to a point called Party Rock, up a very steep washed out abandoned logging road — 2.4 miles round trip with a 1,500-foot elevation gain. After lunch and various discussions about fire effects, five hours later we reboarded the thankfully air conditioned coach.
In another two hours we were at a motel in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
More information about the Party Rock Fire can be found at Wildfire Today and Inciweb. (Update Oct. 9, 2018: it is no longer available on Inciweb)
Day 2 of the Road Trip, June 7, the Chimney Tops 2 Fire
The Chimney Tops 2 Fire started in southeast Tennessee November 23, 2016 inside Smoky Mountains National Park and six days burned into Gatlinburg killing 14 people, forcing 14,000 to evacuate, destroying or damaging 2,400 structures, and blackening 17,000 acres.
A short drive that morning took us to a turnout on US Highway 441 where the Park’s Fire Management Officer Greg Salansky told us about the first six days of the Chimney Tops 2 Fire. Later at different locations we heard a talk by Fire Ecologist Rob Klein about fire effects on vegetation, and Jessica Giacomini and Cory Blair presented information about the effects on animals.
Ms. Giacomini said of the 50 black bears in the park that have radio collars, 20 of them were in the fire area at the time. All of those survived, but two that were not collared died; one was found dead and the other had to be euthanized due to its serious injuries. She said the collared bears hunkered down and remained in the fire area as it burned. This will provide a very rare opportunity, she said, to find out what bears do before, during, and after a wildfire.
That day the group viewed the burned area from several different vantage points, hiked the Cove Mountain Trail, and heard from Emily Snider of UNC and Joe O’Brien of the USFS about various fire intensities, the effects on Table Mountain Pine, and delayed mortality of the overstory.
The day ended with a 2.5 hour coach ride to Dalton, Georgia.
Day 3 of the Road Trip, June 8, the Rough Ridge Fire
The Rough Ridge Fire started on October 16, 2016 in the Cohutta Wilderness of northern Georgia and burned almost 28,000 acres in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.
A 30-minute coach ride took us from Dalton, Georgia to the Conasauga Ranger Station in Chatsworth where we heard from District Fire Management Officer Jeff Schardt.
This was the location where we were joined by two to three dozen forestry students from Clemson. After the initial presentation at the District Office, we all got back into our coach and the vans the students traveled in, and the convoy visited several sites in the footprint of the fire.
Areas treated with prescribed fire over the years were taken advantage of in several locations around the perimeter, and the group saw some of the effects of those projects. The reduction in fuel lowered the fire intensity and served as logical points at which to stop the fire.
Karen Larson, Recreation Program Manager on the District, told the group about issues related to managing a fire in a federal wilderness area, and how the decisions were made initially about suppression tactics.
District Biologist Ruth Stokes covered the impacts on animals. She said bats are migratory and had already left for their hibernation sites in caves. The fire may have destroyed some den trees that bears like, but the fire probably created quite a few more.
Ms. Stokes said that some fish were killed along several miles of the Conasauga River on the northwestern fire perimeter. The exact cause is not certain, but they think it may have been a result of ash deposition in the water. That area, she said, was heavily impacted by smoke. Fire retardant dropped by aircraft was not used in that area.
At all three fire sites we were told that access was extremely difficult and that issue had a very significant effect on the selection of suppression alternatives and the ultimate size and duration of the fires.
This is the first multi-day, multi-fire organized road trip that I am aware of. Depending on your interests, if there are ever any more you might find it as interesting as I did. Unfortunately, when someone asked Ms. Mohr, the director of CAFMS, if she would organize more in the future, her very quick answer was, “No”.
I found the 3-day road trip very interesting and worthwhile, and hope the CAFMS and other groups conduct more.
A much shorter trip on the other side of the country occurred today, planned by Utah State University and billed as the “Second Annual Wildland Fire Tour”, a six-hour event south of Tooele, Utah. The topic was mechanical treatments such as mastication. There was no indication that they would tour a prescribed or wildland fire. It was live-streamed; I watched a few minutes of it but it looked like it was filmed with a cell phone and the wind noise on the mic made it very difficult to hear the speaker. The group was using a nifty portable PA system that appeared to have a hand-held wireless mic. I could not tell if the speaker/amp, about the size of a carry-on suitcase, was battery powered or if there was a power cord that I could not see.
Above: Three fires were generating the smoke detected by a satellite on November 27: Rock Mountain, Camp Branch, and Pinnacle Mountain Fires.
The wildfire activity in the southern states has slowed a bit over the last few days. The day before Thanksgiving there were about 4,100 personnel assigned to fires in the area. By Saturday that number had decreased to 3,400.
The smoke generated by fires that has plagued residents for weeks has also diminished considerably. Today’s satellite photo, above, only shows three fires that are creating enough smoke to be seen from hundreds of miles overhead. These are the Rock Mountain (Georgia and North Carolina), Camp Branch (North Carolina), and Pinnacle Mountain Fires (South Carolina).
Just five fires in the Southern Geographic Area reported size increases on Saturday — a major change from recent weeks.
Rock Mountain Fire
The Rock Mountain Fire in Georgia and North Carolina grew by 2,578 acres in the last 48 hours and now has covered 20,647 acres, which is considered huge in this part of the country. It has spread to within 4 miles of Otto, NC and 4 miles of Dillard, GA. The fire was mapped Saturday by Colorado’s MultiMission Aircraft. Firefighters reported active surface spread in hardwood leaf litter in all directions, aspects and elevations on Saturday. Where it was not impacted by suppression it spread for half a mile. About 130 structures are threatened.
Camp Branch Fire
The 1,483-acre Camp Branch Fire is 9 miles west of Franklin, NC, an increase of 120 acres over the previous report. About 113 personnel are assigned to this fire which currently threatens 140 structures. On Saturday firefighters successfully conducted burnout operations on the northwest and southeast sides.
Pinnacle Mountain Fire
The Pinnacle Mountain Fire in Table Rock State Park added 217 acres Saturday to bring the total up to 9,147 acres. It is in northwest South Carolina 9 miles south of Brevard, North Carolina. The incident management team reports that 255 personnel are assigned and 1,133 structures are threatened. A burnout operation on Saturday brought the perimeter to the containment lines on the west and north sides of the fire.
Clear Creek Fire
The Clear Creek Fire is 7 miles northwest of Marion, NC. I has burned 2,986 acres, an increase of 363 acres. About 352 structures are reported to be threatened. The fire is staffed by 489 personnel.
Mount Pleasant Fire
The Mount Pleasant Fire, 9 miles west of Buena Vista, Virginia has blackened 11,200 acres, an increase of 200. High humidity Friday night aided suppression efforts, but that was followed by strong winds on Saturday. Area road and trail closures, including part of the Appalachian Trail, are in effect. The fire has burned across the Appalachian Trail between Road 507 and Cow Camp Gap. The increase in acreage was the result of a large burnout operation on Saturday.
For the latest articles at Wildfire Today about how smoke from the wildfires is affecting various locations in the South, check out the articles tagged “smoke”.