Multiple blazes keep local fire departments busy

By Kyle Perrotti and Allison Richmond | Apr 14, 2017
Photo by: Kyle Perrotti A Jonathan Creek tanker parked near the site of the Jonathan Creek fire.

In addition to the wildfires currently burning throughout Western North Carolina, Haywood County has seen its fair share of blazes this week, pushing fire departments to their limits as they strategically allocated resources to effectively combat each situation.

North Canton

The week's first fire nearly destroyed a home in North Canton Monday night.

Christian Wilkie of the North Canton Fire Department said at about 10 p.m., firefighters responded to a house fire on Odiear Road off Brady Circle.

Along with North Canton, Canton, Junaluska, Center Pigeon and Clyde fire departments, Enca Fire Department was called all the way from Buncombe County to respond to the blaze.

There were no injuries reported, and although the house wasn’t a complete loss, Wilkie noted that there was extensive damage.

Wilkie added that he did not know the cause and an investigation is underway.

Jonathan Creek

A fire that broke out off Hemphill Road near Jonathan Creek Wednesday afternoon was contained within a couple hours thanks to local firefighters.

The fire caught quickly when either a power line broke or a transformer exploded, raining sparks down on the ankle-deep dry leaves, said nearby resident Mike Phillips.

"It was going 50 miles per hour up the hill because the wind was going so fast," he said.

Another nearby resident, Mike Levitt, who was working outside, also said that it was some kind of electrical malfunction.

"I was inside getting a drink of water and then I heard a boom," he said.

But, according to Derwood Sitton of the N.C. Forest Service, firefighters from his agency, Maggie Valley Fire Department and Jonathan Creek Fire Department were quickly on the scene. He said that although it was only a couple hours before the fire was out, there were some homes that were in jeopardy.

"It burned right up to the steps," he said of one cabin.

Waynesville

Despite the efforts of fire crews from across the county, a Waynesville home was destroyed.

The fire was reported around 4:40 p.m. Wednesday, around the same time that multiple departments were busy assisting the N.C. Forest Service with an open burn in the Hemphill area of Maggie Valley. That fire was unrelated and possibly sparked by malfunctioning electric lines.

The home was fully engulfed in flames when fire crews arrived.

A neighbor reported seeing smoke and flames only a few minutes after someone had left the home.

The cause is still under investigation, but the home at 453 Spirit Mountain Trail was gutted by the fire, which was consuming the upper story as firefighters worked to contain it.

The effort involved using a tanker relay to truck water almost a half a mile to the home, which was located about 3,500 feet above Soco Road, where the nearest hydrant was located.

Emergency responders shut down Soco Road to one lane in each direction to facilitate the relay in which one by one trucks would fill up at the hydrant, then head up the hill to get in place to provide more water as the tankers at the scene required it.

With resources already stretched thin, it was countywide effort to contain both serious fires simultaneously.

Crews from Maggie Valley, Crabtree-Ironduff, Waynesville, Canton, North Canton, and Junaluska Volunteer Fire Departments responded, with Maggie Valley the lead crew.

According to Waynesville Fire Chief Joey Webb, no one was home at the time of the fire and no one was injured in the process of extinguishing it.

The sheriff's office has stepped in to investigate the fire to help out the Fire Marshal's office, which already has several pending cases, due to the busy week.

“This is the definition of mutual aid,” Webb said of the combined efforts of the various departments. “We are all pulling together to take care of these fires as a team.”