Temporary Trail Closure Announced Due to Wildfire in McDowell County, NC

NEBO, N.C., July 18, 2015 – An estimated 2 acre wildfire burning on Forest Service land near Bald Knob in McDowell County will require temporary closure of a section of the Mountains to Sea Trail between the footbridge over the North Fork of the Catawba River and Dobson Knob Road (Forest Service Road 106). The trail closure will be in effect until fire is declared controlled.

Forest Service officials are asking the public to avoid this area for their own safety and the safety of emergency response personnel on scene.

The Bald Knob fire is burning adjacent to multiple prescribed burn areas that have recently been treated which will limit the fire’s ability to spread rapidly. Firefighters will continue to monitor the wildfire throughout the weekend and into next week. Members of the public near Woodlawn and traveling along State Highway 221 can expect to see and smell smoke over the coming days.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation though firefighters believe ignition was likely caused by lightening from recent strong thunder storms. Four personnel are currently assigned to the fire. Cooperating agencies include the North Carolina Forest Service and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

 

Update July 20, 2015: The Bald Knob Fire, burning on Forest Service land in McDowell County, grew to approximately 20 acres over the weekend. Predicted hot and dry weather will increase the potential for fire growth over the coming days.

No structures are at risk and firefighters are closely monitoring the fire. A temporary closure of a section of the Mountains to Sea Trail between the footbridge over the North Fork of the Catawba River and Dobson Knob Road (Forest Service Road 106) remains in place.

 

Update July 24, 2015: The Bald Knob Fire, burning on Forest Service land in McDowell County, grew to approximately 40 acres since July 20. Rainy weather and high humidity has slowed the fire’s progression. The incident commander ordered an additional fire crew from out-of-state to help support the “confine and contain” strategy currently being employed.

A temporary closure of a section of the Mountains to Sea Trail between the footbridge over the North Fork of the Catawba River and Dobson Knob Road (Forest Service Road 106) remains in place.

 

Update July 31, 2015: The Bald Knob Fire, burning on Forest Service land in McDowell County, remains at 40 acres. The fire, which was reported on July 17, received minimal amounts of rainfall this week from isolated storms.

While rainfall stalled any additional spread of the fire, the amount of precipitation was not enough to extinguish the burning fuels that are sheltered in the rocky cliffs below Bald Knob. With dry conditions and low humidity predicted for this weekend and early next week, the fire activity may increase as leaf litter dries out. Members of the public near the communities of Woodlawn, Sevier and those traveling along State Highway 221 can expect to see increased smoke over the weekend, with heaviest smoke likely to occur in the afternoons when temperatures are high and humidity low.

Firefighters placed an information board at the Woodlawn picnic area off of State Highway 221 that members of the public can view to learn more about the fire and the benefits of natural ignition wildfire in fire-adapted ecosystems like Bald Knob.

A temporary closure of a section of the Mountains to Sea Trail between the footbridge over the North Fork of the Catawba River and Dobson Knob Road (Forest Service Road 106) remains in place.

 

Update August 3, 2015: The Bald Knob Fire, burning on Pisgah National Forest land in McDowell County north of Marion, NC, increased to 190 acres over the weekend. The fire grew in size as weather patterns brought dry, less humid conditions to the area.

The Bald Knob Wildfire was reported on July 17th in a remote area near Dobson Knob, north of Lake James. Wetter weather kept the fire activity low for the first two weeks. With dry conditions over the weekend, fire activity and smoke have increased. Members of the public near Marion, NC and those traveling along State Highway 221 can expect to see and smell smoke, with heaviest smoke likely to occur in the afternoons when temperatures are high and humidity low.

With no significant rain forecasted over the next several days, officials expect the fire to continue to move north-west towards Dobson Knob. Firefighters are scouting for potential containment lines on the west side of the fire and improving existing lines on the south end.

The fire is moving naturally across the terrain in an area where damage from Southern Pine Beetle created high levels of fuels, leading to increased smoke from the fire. This area is adjacent to multiple prescribed burn areas that have recently been treated as part of the Grandfather Restoration Project which will limit the fire’s ability to spread rapidly. The Columbine Wildfire Module, a specialized unit experienced in managing fires for multiple objectives, is assisting with the “confine and contain” strategy currently being employed.

Firefighters placed an information board at the Woodlawn picnic area off of State Highway 221 that members of the public can view to learn more about the fire and the benefits of natural ignition wildfire in fire-adapted ecosystems like Bald Knob.

A temporary closure of a section of the Mountains to Sea Trail between the footbridge over the North Fork of the Catawba River and Dobson Knob Road (Forest Service Road 106) remains in place.

The cause of the fire was likely lightning though the ignition source remains unconfirmed. Cooperating agencies include the North Carolina Forest Service, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, McDowell County Emergency Management, and The Nature Conservancy.

 

Update August 5, 2015: The Bald Knob fire, burning on Pisgah National Forest land in McDowell County north of Marion, NC, is now estimated at 375 acres. The fire was reported on July 17th in a remote area near Dobson Knob, north of Lake James.

Firefighters have finished fire lines on the south end of the fire and are actively constructing fire lines on the west side, as well as scouting for additional containment lines. 17 Firefighters are assigned to the Bald Knob fire. 1 Helicopter is being used between the Bald Knob and Wolf Creek fires.

A shift in wind direction has caused smoke from Bald Knob fire to settle towards the south, impacting areas around Marion and Nebo, NC, with the public seeing and smelling smoke as far south as Rutherfordton, NC. The public can expect to see smoke from this fire for several weeks due to drought conditions in the area.

A community meeting to provide information to the public for the Bald Knob fire will be held on Thursday August 6, at 6:30pm at the Woodlawn Baptist Church, 7873 US-221 North in Marion, NC. Firefighters continue to update the fire information board at the Woodlawn Roadside Park area off of State Highway 221.

A temporary closure of a section of the Mountains to Sea Trail between the footbridge over the North Fork of the Catawba River and Dobson Knob Road (Forest Service Road 106) remains in place.

 

Update August 6, 2015: The Bald Knob fire, burning on Pisgah National Forest land in McDowell County north of Marion, NC, is now estimated at 520 acres. The fire was reported on July 17th in a remote area near Dobson Knob, north of Lake James.

High wind on Wednesday afternoon increased fire activity ahead of the cold front entering the area today. Isolated thunderstorms near the fire produced strong downdrafts but no precipitation for the Bald Knob fire, pushing smoke to the north-northwest towards Boone, NC.

 

Update August 8, 2015: The Bald Knob fire, burning on Pisgah National Forest land in McDowell County north of Marion, NC, is now estimated at 897 acres. Improved mapping as smoke lifted from the area allowed fire officials to accurately map the perimeter of the fire yesterday, leading to the increase in acreage.

The Bald Knob fire was reported on July 17th in a remote area near Dobson Knob, north of Lake James. High wind on Wednesday afternoon increased fire activity ahead of the cold front that brought rain to the region Thursday. Close to 1 inch of rain was reported on the fire, stalling its progress yesterday but not extinguishing the flames. As dry weather returns to the area this weekend and next week, officials expect the fire to continue to grow in size.

Air quality improved yesterday and will likely remain good to moderate over the weekend. Communities near the fire, especially around Marion, Nebo, Lake James and Glen Alpine, NC, may experience some smoke in the mornings and evenings.

A temporary closure of a section of the Mountains to Sea Trail between the footbridge over the North Fork of the Catawba River and Dobson Knob Road (Forest Service Road 106) remains in place.

 

Update August 10, 2015: High humidity over the weekend limited growth of the Bald Knob fire, burning on Pisgah National Forest land in McDowell County north of Marion, NC. The fire now estimated at 1,000 acres.

The Bald Knob fire was reported on July 17th in a remote area near Dobson Knob, north of Lake James. Rainfall on Friday and high humidity over the weekend aided firefighting efforts but did not extinguish the flames. There is a chance of rain in the area today and tomorrow, however, with dry weather predicted to return to the area later this week officials expect the fire to continue to grow in size.

Air quality improved over the weekend and will likely remain good to moderate through Tuesday until dry weather returns. Communities near the fire, especially around Marion, Nebo, Lake James and Glen Alpine, NC, may experience some smoke in the mornings and evenings.

Due to the duration and complexity of this fire, management of the fire is being transferred from the North Carolina Type 3 Incident Management Team to the Southern Area Type 2 Gold Incident Management Team. In addition, officials are setting up a unified command center with the North Carolina State Forest Service.

 

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