It’s day four of battle with a monster wildfire on Pilot Mountain, and the dry weather isn’t making the fight any easier for firefighters.
Fire officials say the Grindstone Fire on Pilot Mountain has doubled in size since Monday. It’s now spread across just over 1,050 acres. Firefighters have the fire 20% contained. Dry and windy weather conditions aren’t helping matters.
Efforts to contain the blaze are continuing today. Here’s what we know.
6AM UPDATE: One of our @WXII crew members, Neil, just sent us this photos from Pilot Mountain. The fire definitely still going strong this morning. More fire crews are set to arrive at 8AM pic.twitter.com/fbBYZRqElY
— WXII Jackie Pascale (@WXIIJackie) November 28, 2021
How large is the fire?
As of the afternoon of Nov. 28, North Carolina State Parks and Recreation said the fire had burned nearly 180 acres.
Pilot Mountain continues to burn Tuesday, marking the fourth day of flames atop the North Carolina landmark.
This map gives you an idea of the approximate area that has burned on PIlot Mountain so far as of Monday night. Most of the popular state park area around the knob & overlook areas has had at least some fire activity, but the fire has so far been contained on the mountain.
NEW MAP: This gives you an idea of the approx area that has burned on PIlot Mountain so far. Most of the popular state park area around the knob & overlook areas has had at least some fire activity, but the fire has so far been contained on the mountain. #PilotMountainFire @WFMY pic.twitter.com/jte7LdKAxy
— Tim Buckley (@TimBuckleyWX) November 30, 2021
As of Tuesday afternoon, about 1,000 acres of the 3,800-acre park has burned. The fire is 20% contained.
Dozens of fire-fighting officials have been called in to help, including North Carolina Forest Service personnel and North Carolina Parks crews. Planes are also being used to dump water onto the fire.
Fire officials said no one has been hurt and no buildings have been damaged. No homes have had to be evacuated either. The fire is happening in the state park, and the closest homes are outside of that area, in the valley below.
What caused the fire?
North Carolina Forest Service Ranger Jimmy Holt said Monday, “we can say with confidence that the fire was human-caused in some form.” He said they know the fire wasn’t started by a lightning strike, leading them to believe it was man-made.
Once the wildfire is under control, Holt said law enforcement will be able to further investigate the cause. He said the fire was first discovered on Grindstone Trail.
Weather expected to fan the flames
The Mayor of Pilot Mountain, Evan Cockerham, posted on Facebook Sunday evening that the dry forecast for the next few days is contributing to the spread of the flames.
The weather is “against” them as of right now, according to the NC Forest Service. The dry, windy conditions expected today are going to complicate containment, especially given the terrain.
Next to nothing this month in the rain gauge… We average close to 3″ for November.
Basically no rain in the forecast either. Next small chance comes by Sunday. Very bad trying to fight a wildfire. pic.twitter.com/50J3VsnOSU
— Christian Morgan (@CMorganWX) November 29, 2021
FOX8 Meteorologist Emily Byrd said Monday, “A cold front is moving through, and the breeze it’s producing is going to enhance the danger of wildfires today.”
Tuesday morning, officials said the wind, while strong, is not as big of a concern for the fire since most of it is low to the ground.
The knob of Pilot Mountain State Park’s most distinctive feature, was shrouded in a veil of smoke at sunrise Monday morning. Fueled by dry & windy conditions, the fire that started off a popular trail on Saturday grew to encompass more than 250 acres. #PilotMountainFire pic.twitter.com/mqU7KwI5zR
— Bob Karp (@BobKarpDR) November 29, 2021
What you need to know about the NC fire
The NC State Parks and Recreation Department says Pilot Mountain State Park is expected to be closed all week.
A statewide ban on outdoor burning is in place at this time.
Cockerham asks that anyone in Surry and surrounding counties refrain from any outdoor burning. Anyone who sees outdoor burning should contact local law enforcement.
Smoke and haze
The Forsyth County Emergency Services Communications Division has received multiple reports of a strong smell of smoke and haze in multiple areas within the county due to the fire at Pilot Mountain.
“Smoke from the wildfire near Pilot mountain will impact the Triad during Monday late afternoon/evening through the overnight hours Tuesday as winds shift from the northwest to the southwest,” the Forsyth County Office of Environmental Assistance and Protection said in an alert. “Particle pollution levels will be elevated as the wildfire smoke rotates through the Triad.”
Smoke is all on the north side of Pilot Mountain today. The south side is smoke free.
Southwest winds are blowing this smoke to the north and to the east.
Fire activity *seems* much less today, despite a stiff wind, but will await updates from the forest service. pic.twitter.com/Fhiiajl4uV
— Tim Buckley (@TimBuckleyWX) November 30, 2021
The Forsyth County EAP does not expect particle pollution to reach unhealthy levels, but the agency said people with asthma or other health issues may want to limit their time outdoors.
“By noon Tuesday, the smoke plume will primarily affect portions of Surry and Stokes counties into southern Virginia,” Forsyth County EAP said.
Timeline of the Grindstone Fire
According to officials, the fire started at the Grindstone Trail. The call reporting the fire came in around 5 p.m. on Saturday.
The NC Forest Service believes the fire was human-made, but the exact cause is unclear.
Crews were called off Saturday night but returned Sunday morning with more than 30 firefighters from area agencies, NC Forest Service personnel and NC Park members.
The fire had destroyed about 60 acres by about 9 a.m. Sunday, increasing to about 200 acres by 4 p.m.
Crews worked to prep around infrastructure and buildings in the park area.
Planes were in the air at 10 a.m Monday., and more crews joined those already fighting the fire Monday from southern North Carolina counties, as well as crews from east of Raleigh.
An official with the NC Forest Service says that an estimated 500 acres burned as of 11 a.m.
A new strategy could change the course of the Pilot Mountain fire. Firefighters began helping the fire burn in a controlled manner, working to direct the fire down the mountain to the fire containment line. Officials say this will take a couple of days.
NEW: Authorities say the Grindstone Fire at Pilot Mountain NC has topped 1,000 acres with 20% containment. Firefighters say the fire lines they are setting are helping. We are LIVE with reports each hour on @foxweather #foxweather pic.twitter.com/cW1AleO6Nm
— Will Nunley (@willnunley) November 30, 2021
Monday night, 29 NC Forest Service members set up an incident command post in an old funeral home about seven miles from the park entrance.
About 60 firefighters are working the fire.
A time-lapse video shows the progression of the fire burning on Pilot Mountain. The video, taken by Daniel Whittaker, shows flames burning up the side of the mountain overnight up to Pilot Mountain’s famous knob.
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