Surry Co. EMS: Still Burning Pilot Mtn. Fire "Contained"

12:39 AM, Nov 12, 2012   |    comments
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Pilot Mountain, NC -- A prescribed burn that was supposed to cover only 180 acres of Pilot Mountain has grown to 800 acres, and by the time the fire is extinguished, officials expect it to burn 1000 acres.

Crews working to put out the fire performed another water drop Sunday.

The park has been closed since the fire jumped the initial fire line Thursday, and park officials say it will remain closed through Thursday, Nov. 15. The Yadkin River section and corridor trail will stay open.

David Brown, the Firest Service information officer, says crews discovered on Sunday morning that embers flared another two acres outside the marked area.

Helicopters dropped water on the area where the fire has been burning since Thursday.

The fire started as a controlled burn but crossed the fire lines -read background story here. 

John Shelton, director of the Surry County Emergency Management, says the drop was "successful" but did not dampen the still-burning area.

Sunday's work, according to Shelton, primarily focused on holding fire-lines already in place, back-burning and bringing out bulldozers to clear some of the land.

Officials say crews did look at the amount of fuel on the ground, humidity, wind speed, weather forecast and made sure they all met the state forest service's criteria before starting the prescribed-burn.

They say there was more fuel than expected - old, downed and hollow trees - which helped fuel the fire and send embers flying outside the fire-line.

"Fire went up a dead tree and embers floated over our fire line in that prescribed burn, it went into a very difficult area to reach, very rugged terrain so we could not immediately get to it to put it out so that's how the fire began outside of the controlled burn line," explained Charlie Peek, NC Department of Parks and Recreation.

Shelton also acknowledges that conditions were extremely dry.
He says firefighters have been working "extremely hard" as the elevation and terrain continue to hamper some of their efforts.

The fire has spread quickly since it crossed the containment lines on Thursday, but in a phone interview, Shelton told News 2, "this was actually a good fire to manage."

He explains that this fire is atypical, in that, it is not "burning, and raging out of control." He says that means they haven't needed as many fire-fighting resources.

News 2 was told 60 firefighters were helping with the situation on Saturday.

Since the fire started, Pilot Mountain has been closed to visitors but they continue to drive in, some, just to see the work fire crews are doing. 

Peek says the park will likely be closed throughout the week because after the fire is extinguished, crews will have to "mop up." That means they'll walk the fire line to make sure there are no burning embers.

The state forest service has established a public information trailer at the park entrance to provide information and address any concerns.

Monday evening, there will be a public meeting regarding the status of the fire at Pinnacle View Baptist Church, 123 Pinnacle View Church Road, at 7:00 p.m.

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