Photos | Table Rock fire now 1,800 acres

Photos | Table Rock fire now 1,800 acres

Credit: Lynn Willis

Photos | Table Rock fire now 1,800 acres

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by WCNC.com Staff

WCNC.com

Posted on November 15, 2013 at 5:36 AM

Updated Friday, Nov 22 at 12:32 PM

MORGANTON, N.C. -- Fire activity increased on Wednesday, the Forest Service says, but that didn't prevent firefighters from making progress on line construction.

The Table Rock fire was detected on Tuesday. By Wednesday morning, the fire grew from 40 acres to 100 acres. By nightfall, officials say the wildfire increased to 1,800 acres, largely due to westerly winds pushing the fire to the east.

(Click here to see viewer-submitted photos of the blaze)

Fire crews continue their battle against a growing blaze in the Linville Gorge Wilderness area of the Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina.

"We had that weather front that came through.  And that little bit of rain we got, we didn’t get very much rain up here. But did bring a lot of wind," said Walker.

By late in the day Wednesday, The U.S. Forest Service says it had about 60 firefighters working on the fire near Table Rock Mountain in Burke County. That number increased to 100 overnight, as fire crews from surrounding states began arriving to assist in the fight.

The U.S. Forest Service and crews from the Oak Hill Volunteer Fire Department worked to reduce fuels around the Outward Bound facility, by removing vegetation and burning-out around structures. Walker says firefighters it’s a technique called "burn out,” and they go in to set new fires.

"We go in with our crews and helicopters, and we basically burn the area between the line and the fire perimeter. What it does is stop the progression of the fire," Walker said.

The Forest Service says the fire expected to continue growing for the next couple of days.  Unable to transport heavy machinery into the wilderness, the firefighters are using hand tools to dig trenches around the fire.

The U.S. Forest Service says the public should expect to see an increased amount of smoke coming from the area, with the heaviest periods of smoke will likely be mid-afternoon, before dissipating in the evening.

While no homes are now threatened, some area residents like Taylor Pons, whose family has a home nearby, is worried.

"There are a lot of valuables from my family that are up there that we really need to try and save. We need to try and get up there," she said.

The fire is estimated to be 40% contained at this time.

Fire crews are plotting their strategy at a base camp they have set up in a park in Morganton.

There they have maps and can communicate with the crews on the fire lines and with helicopters that are flying overhead.

"We are not doing a direct attack to the fire perimeter because it is such steep terrain and very dangerous for our crews to be in there," said Walker.

She also urged area residents not to try to get close to the fire area because it is out of control and potentially deadly to anyone who might get stuck in the area.

No injuries have been reported.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.  But the U.S. Forest Service wants to hear from anyone who was at the Table Rock picnic area Monday, where investigators believe the fire sparked.

Authorities say several trails in the Table Rock Mountain and Shortoff Mountain area are closed to the public. The Table Rock Picnic Area is also closed. If you're looking to visit the Linville Gorge, you're advised to visit the National Forests in North Carolina website for the latest closures.

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