Fires keeping air quality low

Published 4:10 pm Friday, November 18, 2016

By Deirdre Parker Smith

The N.C. Division of Air quality is predicting three more days of Code Orange air quality due to the fires burning in the North Carolina mountains.

Saturday, Sunday and Monday are expected to be air quality action days because the air will be filled with fine particles from smoke. Code Orange air is unhealthy for sensitive people, including children, active adults and those with heart or respiratory diseases, including asthma. Those people should limit outdoor activity.

Both Cabarrus and Iredell counties have enacted burning bans. In Iredell, outdoor cooking is still allowed, but burning leaves, branches or other vegetative material and all recreational fires are prohibited. Open burning is allowed more than 100 feet from a structure, but will require a permit from the N.C. Forest Service.

According to a report from the U.S. Forest Service, firefighters made good progress on the fire Thursday and Friday.

They are working hot spots and strengthening firelines along steep terrain. Winds will increase this weekend, but crews have allowed certain areas to burn out so as not to promote growth of the fire. A blasting crew removed 98 trees at the Boteler fire in Swain County to prevent spread. The fire is 57 percent contained and covers 8,967 acres. It started Oct. 25.

The Tellico Fire in Swain and Macon counties has benefitted from flights using infrared equipment to detect hot spots. The fire, which stated Nov. 3, is 81 percent contained, covering 13,874 acres.

The Cathy Gap Fire in Jackson County is not contained, but is burning just 123 acres. It started Nov. 17.

The Dicks Creek Fire is 98 percent contained. It started Oct. 23 and covers 728 acres.

Unfortunately, a dry cold front will move into the mountains, bringing winds up to 25 mph. With continued low humidity and extremely dry fuel, the front could increase some of the fires.

Trails remain closed in Swain and Macon counties, along with much of the Nantahala National Forest.

The Maple Springs fire covers 7,788 acres, while the Old Roughy Fire covers 657 acres.

Infrared technology shows a decrease in hot spots in both fires. Maple Springs is 51 percent contained, and Old Roughy is considered 100 percent contained. Weekend winds are a cause for concern.

Residents across the state have been collecting and delivering supplies to the firefighters.

In an effort to manage donated materials, North Carolina Department of Emergency Management, in cooperation with the Western North Carolina Association of Firefighters and the North Carolina and U.S. Forest Service, asks that community members direct their donations to specific counties.

Buncombe County: Fairview Fire Department, 828-628-2001

Burke County: Fire Information Hot Line, 828-764-9380

Clay County: Office of Emergency Management, 828-389-9640

Cherokee County: Office of Emergency Management, 828-837-7352

Graham County: Office of Emergency Management, 828-479-7967

Jackson County: Office of Emergency Management, 828-586-7592

Macon County: Office of Emergency Management, 828-349-2067

Rutherford and Henderson counties request ONLY the following items: beef jerky, lip balm, eye wash, wool caps/toboggans, bandanas, protein bars, breakfast bars, boot socks, travel size hand wipes, travel size hand lotion, travel size Gold Bond foot powder, handwarmer gloves

Supplies should be delivered to: Rutherford Life Services, 230 Fairground Road, Spindale NC 28160. This location will be open Nov. 2123 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Additional dates and times will be announced later if needed.

Deliver Henderson County supplies to Mud Creek Baptist Church, 403 Rutledge Drive, Hendersonville, NC 28739. 

Drop-off hours: Today-Tuesday, Nov. 22, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. For more information contact Mud Creek Church, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., 828-692-1262.