Update: Today's 10 a.m. update says "plans are to actively monitor the fire’s expected continued slow progression, fortify containment lines, and mop up areas where the fire is no longer actively burning. ... Should the fire become more active due to weather, fuels, or other conditions changing, suppression activities would be adjusted accordingly."
The news release points out that, because of the terrain, fire containment lines are two miles away from the actual fire, which leaves plenty of fuel available to burn either by movement of the fire or firefighter-initiated burnouts.
The Linville Gorge Wilderness Area fire is still at 2,275 acres and 40 percent containment, but is only "smoldering with small isolated pockets of fire activity," according to the government's incident management website.
The U.S. Forest Service's evening update on Tuesday said firefighting had transitioned "toward construction of contingency lines and mop up of 'hot spots' or sites of significant heat near the fireline."
The InciWeb page, which the news release refers to, says, "The strategy today is to monitor fire progression and ensure resources are in place if the fire moves south." It also says "concerns still exist over a section of uncontained line along the southern fire flank."
InciWeb also provides photos (including the ones below), a map and other information, including a link to the Forest Service's list of closed roads and trails in the Linville Gorge and Table Rock area.
The Table Rock wildfire was first reported November 12 near the Table Rock Picnic Area on the eastern rim of the 2,000-foot-deep gorge. The steep and rugged terrain has hampered firefighting, but a half-inch of rain Sunday night was helpful, officials say.
The fire's origin is unknown, and investigators continue to ask for help from a group of campers known to have been at the Table Rock Picnic Area on the 11th, or from anyone else with information.
A reward may be offered for substantial information, the Forest Service says. Contact Law Enforcement Officer Jason Crisp at 828-442-2470 or the Grandfather Ranger District of the Pisgah National Forest at 828-652-2144.
U.S. Forest Service photos below depict the Table Rock Fire in the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area of the Pisgah National Forest, which has been burning since at least November 12.
Monday's lone update of the wildfire in Linville Gorge said a half-inch of rain on Sunday was helpful, but the 2,300-acre, week-old fire was still burning.
The Forest Service said winds expected to gust to 20 miles per hour Monday and a warm, drying period over the course of the week could dry fuel quickly and create "a real test" of new containment lines.
The Table Rock Fire was officially listed at 2,275 acres and 40 percent containment, a news release said. There are 193 fire personnel assisting with suppression efforts, including a 20-person hand crew from the Oklahoma Bureau of Indian Affairs, which arrived Monday.
Firefighting work was focused on constructing containment lines and removing safety hazards, such as snags, within those lines that could compromise firefighter safety. Crews along the north end were to patrol existing containment lines and mop up any “hot spots” they found near the lines.
The fire was discovered November 12 near the Table Rock Picnic Area and spread south and eastward into in a very remote, steep and rugged area of the gorge, according to the Forest Service. On Friday, the fire jumped a containment line on the fire's southern flank and spawned a new 40-acre fire near Chimney Gap.
Earlier in the week, the Forest Service estimated the fire covered 2,700 acres, but officials said later that better maps showed it at more like 2,200.
Several roads and trails in the Linville Gorge area remain closed. The release says a complete list of closed trails is on the National Forests in North Carolina website, but we could not find it. We've listed them in our coverage below, and link to Linville Gorge Wilderness Area trails here.
And, fire investigators continue to seek the group that was camping at Table Rock Picnic Area on Veteran’s Day. They believe the campers have information that would aid in the investigation.
A reward may be offered for substantial information regarding this investigation, and those with information should contact Law Enforcement Officer Jason Crisp at 828-442-2470 or the Grandfather Ranger District of the Pisgah National Forest at 828-652-2144.
Update: Today's 11 a.m. update says there has been an injury from a minor vehicle accident related to the fire and there is a structure on private property within containment lines that is threatened by the fire. Also, the Hawksbill Trail (#248) and the Pinnacle Trail (#440) have been closed.
Wildfire at the Linville Gorge jumped a containment line on the fire's southern flank and spawned a new 40-acre fire near Chimney Gap, the U.S. Forest Service said last night. (See a .pdf map of the fire area here.)
Line construction in the Chimney Gap area was difficult because of steep, rocky terrain and inaccessible areas in the rock outcrops, a news release updating the status of the Table Rock Fire said.
The fire, which was first reported Tuesday, was estimated to cover 2,700 acres and to be 40 percent contained. No structures are threatened and no injuries have been reported, officials said Friday night in a news release distributed via email but not posted to the Forest Service website.
Just over 100 firefighters from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky are working the fire.
Because of the fire, trails in Linville Gorge, the Table Rock Mountain day use area, and other public recreation sites in the area have been closed. Those interested in this area of the Pisgah National Forest should check the National Forests in North Carolina website for information about closings and contact information.
Fire investigators want to talk to members of a group camping at the Table Rock Picnic Area last Monday, Veteran’s Day, the Forest Service says.
Investigators think the campers have information that would help them determine the cause of the fire. A reward may be offered for substantial information regarding this investigation, and anyone who can help should contact Law Enforcement Officer Jason Crisp at 828-442-2470 or the Grandfather Ranger District at 828-652-2144, the news release says.
Elsewhere, the state Division of Air Quality has warned that residents in Avery, Burke, Caldwell, McDowell and Watauga counties could experience unhealthy air quality because of smoke from the fire, depending on wind directions.
Linville Gorge is in Burke County near the Linville Falls community; smoke could reach as far as Boone, Marion and Hickory.
People who are sensitive to air pollution should avoid or reduce prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors, the state says. Sensitive groups include the elderly, children, people who work or exercise outdoors, and those with heart conditions and respiratory ailments such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema. Everyone else in affected areas should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion.
The National Weather Service forecasts a 50 percent chance of rain in the area beginning this afternoon and growing to 80 percent by Sunday night.
Firefighters had contained 40 percent of the Table Rock Fire in the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area by late this morning and were counting on sparse rain in the area to provide some help in suppression efforts, a mid-day update said.
For the first time since the fire was discovered Tuesday, the Forest Service said today it knows of people in the area where the fire started and mentioned a reward for information about the blaze's origins.
The Forest Service also released a map (a .pdf available here) depicting the scope of the 1,800-acre Table Rock Fire on the central eastern ridge of the gorge, lines cut to contain it and the location of the Outward Bound camp that firefighting personnel have protected from the blaze.
Several Linville Gorge trails and roads are closed to the public, including the Conley Cove Trail (#229), the Pinch In Trail (#228), the Rock Jock Trail (#247), and parts of the Linville Gorge Trail (#231), as are the Table Rock Picnic Area and trails on Shortoff Mountain.
The news release also said fire investigators know of a group that was camping at the Table Rock Picnic Area on Veteran's Day and would like to talk to them.
The cause of the fire is unknown. The Forest Service asks for anyone with information about the source of the fire to contact Law Enforcement Officer Jason Crisp at 828-442-2470 or the Pisgah National Forest's Grandfather Ranger District at 828-652-2144.
"A reward may be offered for substantial information regarding this investigation," the news release says.
The National Weather Service forecast for the area calls for showers off and on through Sunday.
The Table Rock Fire in the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area had grown to 1,800 acres as a result of burnout operations and remained at 5 percent contained, the U.S. Forest Service said in yesterday's 5 p.m. update.
Most of the work planned for last night and today was to conduct more burnout operations to consume potential fuel for the fire, a news release said.
A "burnout" is a fire set inside a control line to consume fuel between the edge of the fire and the control line, according to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group.
About 100 firefighters and support personnel, including crews from surrounding states, are working the fire.
The Forest Service has closed additional trails in the Linville Gorge, including the Conley Cove Trail (#229), the Pinch In Trail (#228), the Rock Jock Trail (#247), and parts of the Linville Gorge Trail (#231). Other trails around Table Rock Mountain and Shortoff Mountain along with the Table Rock Picnic Area had previously been closed.
Forest officials advise checking the National Forests in North Carolina website for the latest information if you plan to visit the wilderness area.
The area will remain smoky through the weekend. Winds from the south will push the smoke to northern communities during the day and will settle into the canyons at night, the Forest Service said.
The National Weather Service forecast for the area calls for rain off and on beginning late this afternoon and extending through Sunday.
Fire investigators are asking the public to contact the Grandfather Ranger District of the Pisgah Forest at 828-652-2144 with any information about persons in the Table Rock picnic area on Monday, Veteran’s Day. The cause of the fire is unknown.
A wildfire in the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area tripled in size over the last 24 hours despite firefighters' progress on line construction to slow its spread, the U.S. Forest Service says.
The Table Rock Fire now covers 300 acres and is 5 percent contained, a Forest Service news release said late this morning.
One hundred firefighters, including crews from surrounding states, are battling the blaze.
This fire covered 15 acres when first detected on Tuesday in the Table Rock Picnic Area, in the east-central part of the gorge. A cold front brought windy conditions to the area, and westerly winds pushed the fire farther east Wednesday.
The picnic area and several trails in the Table Rock Mountain and Shortoff Mountain areas are closed to the public.
The fire threatened an Outward Bound camp, but firefighters have been able to reduce fuel around the camp by removing vegetation and burning out around the structures.
There are no other homes or structures threatened at this time and no injuries have been reported, the news release says.
Smoke from the wildfire and from burn-out operations will increase the amount of smoke coming from the area today, officials said.
The cause of the fire is under investigation. Fire investigators are asking the public to contact the Pisgah National Forest's Grandfather Ranger District at 828-652-2144 with any information about persons in the Table Rock picnic area on Monday, Veteran's Day.
The National Weather Service said early this morning that "critically low relative humidity values will persist into this afternoon creating enhanced fire danger threats" in the region. There is a possibility of heavy rain late Sunday, the NWS said.
A Charlotte Observer photo by Brady Linkous shows Linville Gorge's Table Rock Fire from afar on Wednesday. Click on the photo for the Observer's report.
The Table Rock Fire in the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area of the Pisgah National Forest grew to 100 acres overnight and is expected to continue to grow over the next couple of days, the U.S. Forest Service said this morning.
The blaze is about one-quarter mile southwest of Table Rock Mountain in the east-central part of the Gorge. It is near the Outward Bound base camp area, which is vacant and being protected by firefighters. No other homes or structures are threatened as of the Forest Service's 10 a.m. update, a news release said.
The cause of the fire is under investigation. The Forest Service asks anyone with information about individuals who may have been in this area last weekend to phone U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer Jason Crisp at 828-652-2144.
The U.S. Forest Service, N.C. Forest Service, Burke County Emergency Management, and N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission are fighting the fire with two helicopters, bulldozers, chainsaws and other equipment. Firefighters were working to clean up existing roads, trails and firelines from previous fires to contain the wildfire.
The fire was not at all contained as of this morning.
The National Weather Service said this morning that "northerly winds may briefly gust as high as 20 mph late this morning before gradually diminishing this afternoon. These conditions will likely hamper ongoing wildfire suppression activities."
(Updated at 3:30 p.m.)
The U.S. Forest Service said this afternoon firefighters were trying to contain a wildfire in the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area.
A news release just after 1 p.m. said it was a 15-acre fire, but a followup at 3 p.m. said it was 40 acres. About 40 firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service, N.C. Forest Service, Burke County Emergency Management, and N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission were at work on the fire.
The fire is in the west-central part of the gorge about one-quarter mile southwest of Table Rock Mountain and is threatening the Outward Bound base camp area, the Forest Service said.
Trails near Table Rock Mountain, and the Table Rock picnic area were closed.
The National Weather Service warned this afternoon of "increased fire danger throughout the Western Carolinas ... into the evening hours due to the increasing winds and dry fuels" as a front moves through the area.
The Forest Service promises more information about the Linville Gorge fire as it becomes available.
Morrow Mountain State Park will open its mountaintop parking lot and picnic area Saturday for the first time since June 13 when a storm damaged much of the park, the state Division of Parks and Recreation said on its Facebook page this afternoon.
A storm that hit Stanly County included microburst winds that damaged or destroyed multiple buildings and vehicles in the park, and downed or damaged trees that clogged campsites, parking lots, roadways, and trails. The entire park was closed until August 5.
According to the park's webpage, the following sections of Morrow Mountain State Park are open:
* Family campground (Sites 1 to 106)
* Organized group camping area (Sites 1 to 6) (see family campground link)
* All family vacation cabins (see family campground link)
* Boathouse and concession stand
* Boat ramp and fishing pier
* Picnic shelters B and C and the Lower Picnic Area
* Fall Mountain, Hattaway Mountain, Rocks, Quarry, Laurel,
and Three Rivers trails
* Campground-to-Pool Access Trail
* Kron House Restoration.
Remaining closed are:
* Picnic Shelter A
* Bridle trails and the bridle trail parking lot
* Backpack, Morrow Mountain, Mountain Loop and Sugarloaf Mountain trails.
The Sugarloaf Mountain Trail and the Morrow Mountain Trail are the hiking route to the top of Morrow Mountain. A road also serves the area.
The mountaintop observation deck and picnic area at Morrow Mountain State Park (below) opens Saturday for the first time since the park was damaged in a storm last summer. Click on either photo for more information.
Now that repairs to the dam at Balsam Lake Recreation Area have been completed and the lake refilled, the National Forest Service advises that visitors have the rest of November to rent the lodge at the Nantahala National Forest retreat.
The lake had been drained last spring and through the summer after a leak in the dam was noticed and heavy summer rains prohibited work. Today, the Forest Service said in a news release that the dam has been fixed and the lake has filled with water. They'll stock it with fish next spring.
The lodge offers 16 twin beds with linens, a kitchen with utensils and three bathrooms. All facilities are fully accessible. Rental costs $170 per night Sunday through Thursday, and $200 per night Friday and Saturday. There's a minimum stay of two nights on weekends (Friday and Saturday), and a maximum of 14 days.
The lodge closes for the season after November 30.
The 8-acre Balsam Lake, which will remain open to others beside lodge renters, has accessible fishing piers, a half-mile hiking trail, picnic shelter and vault toilet.
The leak was caused by a broken board at the bottom of the dam, the Forest Service said. Even though the board was less than a year old, it either had a hidden defect, which caused the failure, or absorbed too much moisture then expanded too much and cracked. About 30 boards had to be removed to get to the failed board.
Previous repairs to the dam were completed after the 2012 season ended, eleven months ago.