A wildfire burning through the forest of Chimney Rock is so strange, it’s baffling the experts

No one can remember a wildfire as peculiar as the monster gnawing through the gorge above the village of Chimney Rock.

It burrows beneath swaths cut to contain it. It conjures unforeseen winds from the steep terrain. It dashes erratically this way and that, like a running back punching for open field.

And never mind the frustration of fire managers – it has even spooked the hardy, reclusive mountain coyotes. “We’ve had sightings of them from several people,” Carrie Harmon of the N.C. Forest Service said.

Chimney Rock, population 109, was deserted except for about 200 firefighters from as far away as Florida and Oregon battling the stubborn inferno with shovels, rakes, hoes, backfires and bulldozers. Helicopters thumped through the air during the weekend, muscling water buckets the size of a compact car.

Chimney Rock was under mandatory evacuation and boating was discouraged on Lake Lure to let the whirly-birds dip at will.

“This fire has the characteristics of western fires, of California fires,” said Richard Barnwell, Bat Cave’s 74-year-old fire chief. “This is the worst I’ve ever seen.”

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