North Carolina Crews Battle Forest Fire at Pilot Mountain State Park

by Jennifer Shea

A large forest fire is tearing through Pilot Mountain State Park in North Carolina as firefighters attempt to bring the blaze under control.

About 50 firefighters from various departments rushed to put out the blaze on Saturday evening. But by Sunday evening, the fire had grown to 300 acres, per the Associated Press. And officials said the park would likely be closed all week as a result.

The fire department said they evacuated the park’s campground “without any injuries or damages,” according to the Charlotte Observer.

Pilot Mountain State Park Fire Dangerous to Public

Via Twitter, North Carolina State Parks warned people to steer clear of the fire and to refrain from trying to take pictures of the flames. They were trying to clear the area over the weekend to prevent casualties and to make the firefighters’ jobs easier.

“Please stay away from the area,” parks officials tweeted. “Do not use drones over the park to photograph – they could interfere with fire fighting aircraft.”

Meanwhile, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper also took to Twitter to reassure citizens that he was staying on top of the situation and to praise the dedication of firefighters.

“The Governor’s Office has been in communication with local officials responding to the fire on Pilot Mountain,” Cooper tweeted. “The Governor appreciates the tireless work of firefighters, the Forest Service and others to keep people safe.”

Dry, Windy Conditions Spell Trouble for Fire Suppression

This weekend, Forest Service firefighters and their colleagues from other agencies were struggling with suppression efforts. Dry, windy conditions made the latter more challenging.

“Right now there’s pretty much fire all around the top of the mountain, basically,” Jimmy Holt, Guilford County ranger for the N.C. Forest Service, told UPI. “It’s dry, windy conditions. We haven’t had significant rainfall in several weeks so suppression is difficult.”

The fire is not contained as of yet. But as of Sunday, it had not spread beyond state-owned property. Still, the forecast for the area does not predict rain anytime soon.

As an added precaution, especially given current weather conditions, officials announced an outdoor burn ban in Surry County and surrounding communities. Anyone in the area who witnesses someone burning leaves is encouraged to contact law enforcement. The last thing firefighters need is for the flames to spread into residential areas.

“We plan on holding the fire to the mountain,” Holt said.