Archived Outdoors

Wildfires burn across region

Smoke fills the valleys surrounding the Collett Ridge Fire. USFS photo Smoke fills the valleys surrounding the Collett Ridge Fire. USFS photo

The Collett Ridge Fire south of Andrews swelled over the weekend, growing from 110 acres Nov. 3 to 2,919 acres Nov. 7 — and still 0% contained. 

Meanwhile, the 431-acre East Poplar Fire in Henderson County was only 5% contained as of Nov. 6. In Jackson County, a 310-acre fire west of the Village of Forest Hills was 50% contained as of Nov. 7. In Transylvania County, a 36.5-acre fire in Dupont State Recreational Forest was 75% contained as of Nov. 7.

While no structures have been threatened or damaged in the larger Collett Ridge Fire, as of Nov. 5 the East Poplar fire had damaged two homes, one outbuilding and one uninhabited cabin, also damaging one additional home. The cause of the fire is unknown and under investigation. There are no injuries. Evacuations have been implemented with at least 34 structures currently threatened.

Cherokee, Jackson, Henderson and Transylvania counties are all in severe drought and under a newly enacted open burn ban from the N.C. Forest Service, which prohibits open burning more than 100 feet from a dwelling. All three counties, along with Macon County, have enacted a local ban outlawing fires within 100 feet as well.

On the Collett Ridge Fire, some of the growth is due to burning operations from the firefighters on scene. On Nov. 4, firefighters completed firing operations along Collett Creek and Bolden Creek, reducing the amount of unburned vegetation between the fire and communities to the north. The next day, they burned to the north of the fire along Rattlesnake Ridge to Rattlesnake Knob. However, ongoing drought conditions also contributed to the growth. On Nov. 5, fire activity increased throughout the fire area, resulting in additional growth on all sides. As of Nov. 6, there were 110 people on scene, with resources including two 20-person hand crews, nine engines, two helicopters, one air attack platform and overhead personnel.

With drought conditions ongoing, fire activity is expected to keep increasing. As of Nov. 6, smoky conditions had air quality in the Andrews area rated hazardous, with residents recommended to avoid all outdoor activity. No evacuations or road closures have been announced, but the Rim Trail is temporarily closed for 7 miles, from Big Stump to Shinbone. People should avoid the area so crews can work safely. 

— Holly Kays, Outdoors Editor

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