More than 565 firefighters and support staff from more than 40 states and territories were working to suppress 18 wildfire fires to protect people, structures, and infrastructure in the Nantahala National Forest Wednesday.
Winds were in the forecast at 3 mph increasing to 5-10 mph by Wednesday afternoon that have caused several problems for firefighters. Ridge-top wind gusts of 30-35 mph were also possible.
Strong winds were expected to continue Wednesday night, becoming more northerly in the evening. Ridgetop gusts of 20 - 25 mph will be possible through midnight.
Strong winds will create "very active fire behavior" according to incident fire behavior analyst Ben Rowland. They will also increase the chance of fires spotting across containment lines, especially at higher elevations.
Additional requested crews are coming from all across the country to help fight these fires.
An evacuation notice was issued in Macon County Wednesday afternoon for residents in immediate danger from the fire in the Queens Creek area of Nantahala. Those affected by the evacuation notice in the Partridge Creek and Deweese Road area of Nantahala have been contacted, CodeRed alerts have been sent out and arrangements for shelter have been made through the Macon County Emergency Management Director, Warren Cabe.
Macon County Emergency Management was asking residents to stay tuned to local radio stations, CodeRed messaging and Macon County Public Health Facebook page for up-to-date information. If you are not already registered for CodeRed alerts, please visit the "For Residents" section on the Macon County Website www.maconnc.org
Swain County Emergency Management services has also enacted a mandatory evacuation for all of Taylor Road and for the portion of Silver Mine Road south of the Taylor Road Intersection.
A U.S. Forest Service press release had the following fire updates as of Wednesday afternoon:
Boteler: Firefighters used leaf blowers to clear the previously constructed fire line along Nelson Ridge road Wednesday. Defensive burning operations around structures were successful. Structure assessment was conducted on the east and south side of the fire. Stronger winds from the northwest were expected to test fire line Wednesday.
Firefighters will continue to construct fire line from Nelson Ridge road towards Chunky Gal trail. They will improve line along Pounding Mill creek to Dark Cove. They will continue to maintain and improve existing lines. Structural protection will continue to be a priority.
The fire was 3,504 acres and 30 percent contained.
Dick's Creek: Crews continued strengthening all fire lines. The patrolled, monitored and mopped up on the Southeast end of the fire Wednesday. They were also mopping-up where possible to 50-100 feet in on all control lines, as well as checking and clean out of control lines by raking and blowing newly dropped dry leaves.
The fire was 728 acres and 80 percent contained.
Knob: "We tucked it in, but it's not in bed yet," said the Nantahala Operations Branch Chief Troy Floyd, at the morning briefing Wednesday in Franklin. Firefighters continued increasing protective value of dozer and hand crew-cut lines, managing snags (the dead trees that catch fire from the low ground fire), and other perimeter controls. They mopped up control lines 50-100 feet in by putting out smoldering remnants of the fire. They also monitored and cleaned control lines. Crews and security teams will monitor Highway 64 for smoke and traffic as fire progresses and may close the highway for safety at any time.
The fire was 1,113 acres and 28 percent contained Wednesday.
Whitewater: Fire crews secured and strengthened lines. They improved the lines while monitoring, patrolling, and mopping-up. Teams will continue assessing damage to trail system as time and conditions allow.
It was 25 acres and had no estimate on containment Wednesday.
Tellico: Crews continued structure protection efforts. They burned out fuels in strategic burnout operations in unburned areas in between the wildfire and control lines and values at risk. One of these burnout actions was within sight of the Tellico Trout Farm on the East side of the fire. Crews worked to secure structures as the fire approached Wednesday. The will hold the southern line by mopping up and patrolling. Where needed, bulldozers or hand crews will cut away and clear unburned vegetation in lines to direct the fire away from structures, creating a more defensible space from the wildfire. Crews willcontinue establishing control lines to the North. The will work to secure structures as the fire moves North and East towards Needmore Road.
The fire was 5,160 acres and 25 percent contained Wednesday.
Cliffside: "We want to keep this tucked in," said Floyd. Firefighters monitored the fires' actions, patrolled, and mopped-up. They expanded mop-up of control lines 100 feet in the direction of the fire Wednesday. They also will monitor and clean out these lines.
It was 101 acres and 85 percent contained Wednesday.
Ferebee: Similar to actions at Tellico, fire crews improved and extended hand firelines and dozer lines Tuesday. They scouted for new line locations in the gorge to tie up flanks. Crews worked to construct fire lines down to the stream from both sides to connect dozer lines. They worked on completing dozer lines on top of the ridge. Tuesday, Swain County Emergency Management called for evacuation of two residences on Silver Mine Rd. Other residents on this road were advised of possible evacuations to come. Today, firefighters will scout for areas to cut off the fire spread to the North and South. The major focus is to protect structures around Silver Mine Road and Camp Branch Road and Queens Lake Communities.
This fire was 1,605 acres and there was no estimate on containment Wednesday.
May Branch: Crews monitored the fire, patrolled, and mopped-up. They also checked and cleaned out control lines. Wednesday, they continued increasing mop-up distance to 100 feet in from control lines while monitoring and cleaning out control lines.
It was 175 acres and 50 percent contained Wednesday.
Buck Creek: Firefighters improved fire lines, conducted mop-up and patrolled. Wednesday, firefighters monitored and controlled the fire.
It was 8 acres and 100 percent contained Wednesday.
Avey Branch, Grape Cove, Jarrett Bald, Jones Gap, Maples Springs, Mulberry, Moss Knob, Moses Creek, and Wine Springs: Crews assessed new fires and continued monitoring and patrolling, and will do the same today.