The fire rises: Linville Gorge remains ablaze after a week of attempts to control it

Photo courtesy of Lynn Willis | lynnwillis.com

Stephanie Sansoucy

Photo courtesy of Lynn Willis | lynnwillis.com

The Table Rock wildfire has covered 2,275 acres with 40 percent of the fire under containment as of Monday, according to a forest service alert issued by Fire Information Officer of the National Forest Service, Deborah Walker.

Image courtesy of the National Forest Service

Linville Gorge, the location of the wildfire, received approximately half of an inch of rain Sunday, which provided much needed aid to the area that has seen dry conditions for the past few months, according to a press release from the National Forest Service.

Despite the rain, wind gusts up to 20 miles per hour Monday and the warm, drying period throughout this week are expected to quickly dry out those conditions and present a test on the new containment lines, according to the press release.

Monday’s focus was to construct containment lines and remove safety hazards, such as snags, that could compromise firefighter safety. Crews along the north end will patrol the existing containment lines and clear any “hot spots” they find, according to the press release.

The suppression efforts include 193 fire personnel, including a 20-person hand crew from the Oklahoma Bureau of Indian Affairs that joined the fight Monday. Crews will remain staged to the north at the Outward Bound camp to provide structure protection, according to the press release.

A North Carolina Department of Public Safety team assessed the complexity of the fire over the weekend, which resulted in changing the complexity of the fire to a Type 2 from a Type 3 incident.

The wildfire can be assessed as a Type 1 through Type 4 situation, Type 1 being the most complex and Type 4 being the least complex, Walker said. The wildfire has been a Type 3 complexity for the first week.

Concerns regarding the steep terrain, lack of access, an increase in firefighters and predicted weather patterns for this week were factors in the complexity assessment.

The wildfire started one week ago at the Table Rock picnic area of the Grandfather Ranger District in the Pisgah National Forest. Several roads and trails remain closed in the area.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Fire investigators want to speak with the group who were camping at the Table Rock picnic area Nov. 11 and are asking the public to contact the Grandfather Ranger District with any information.

Story: GERRIT VAN GENDEREN, News Reporter