Wildfire burns about 50 acres in Clyde

By DeeAnna Haney | Feb 05, 2014
Courtesy of: NC Forest Service Bill Poole, emergency fire fighter for the NC Forest Service, helps contain the wildfire that lasted nearly 24 hours over the weekend.

A fire authorities said started from a debris burn got out of control over the weekend, burning nearly 50 acres of land in the Crabtree Mountain area of Clyde before it was contained.

The fire began around 12:45 p.m. Saturday on Seasons Drive in Clyde where a person was burning debris in a partial campfire ring, said Matthew Hooper, assistant county ranger. Wind blew the embers into the dry grass, which caught on fire.

"The initial fire burned very quickly to the top of the mountain and the backing and flanking fire burned continually for well over 24 hours," Hooper said.

The backing fire is one that burns on the back side of an area, and the flanking fire is a when the fire moves across the slope sideways.

About 60 people from several agencies including Clyde, North Canton, Canton, Crabtree, Center Pigeon, Maggie Valley, Fines Creek and Junaluska fire departments and the Haywood County Emergency Management team pooled resources to battle the fire.

The flames threatened two homes on the mountain, but Hooper said firefighters managed to keep the fire away from the homes and no one was evacuated.

Because of the steep, rocky terrain, firefighters were forced to carry the equipment through the woods to control the fire. They used one of Crabtree Fire Department's 6-wheelers to make it to one steep section of the mountain, Hooper said.

As with most mountain wildfires, water was not the primary method to extinguish the fire. Instead, Hooper said it's their policy in Haywood County to use what's called a fire line. This method involves using leaf blowers, chainsaws, rakes and other hand tools.

"We clear all of the vegetation and leaves all the way around the fire in a strip, which we call the fire line, about 3 feet wide so that when the fire burns to that break it can't continue on," Hooper said.

In the end, the wildfire burned about 50 acres of land.

"We appreciate all of the support from the county and the fire departments and their willingness to assist us," Hooper said.

He said this is a reminder for people to always keep an eye on their outside fires, even when it seems as though the ground is wet.

"This one caught us off guard, even with us working with it all the time," Hooper said. "It's important to make sure you keep someone with the fire at all times and clear all of the leaves and twigs out of the area around where you are burning. Also, keep a good watch on the weather. If it is going to be a low humidity or high wind day, it's not a good day to burn."

It is illegal in North Carolina to burn garbage under the open burning rule. Brush including leaves, branches and other plant growth may be burned under certain conditions. Violation of the law could carry a fine.

"We do our best at the NC Forest Service to educate landowners not to do so," said Dwayne Vigil, Haywood County ranger.

His recommended those who burn woody debris or vegetation obtaining a burning permit online at www.ncforestservice.gov or at the Forest Service office in Clyde. Permits are free and can be issued for a 30-day period.

"They can call our office as well (627-6551) and ask what type of debris is legal to burn and if it is a good day to burn or not," he said.

In this particular case, the person responsible for the wildfire was burning debris within 100 feet of his home, which is allowed without a permit, Vigil said.

The person was issued a warning ticket because even though he was not in violation of the law, a person burning debris is still liable if the fire escapes the contained area.

Vigil said fires of this kind are not unusual in Haywood County.

"On average, within the last five years, we probably have about 50 fires like this per year," he said.



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