UPDATE: The White Creek Fire, originally estimated at 585 acres Monday morning, has doubled to 1,365 acres due to backburn efforts, according to the U.S. Forest Service's evening update.
The White Creek Fire, burning near Shortoff Mountain at the south end of Linville Gorge, is now 20 percent contained at an estimated 1,365 acres as of Monday morning. According to sources with the U.S. Forest Service, those numbers are likely to grow larger with current backburn efforts.
The fire, ignited on Thursday afternoon, was initially reported at 10 acres. By Friday evening, the blaze expanded to 75 acres and, by Saturday’s estimates, had spiked seven times as large. Rainfall between Friday night and Saturday morning helped, but ultimately didn’t extinguish the flames.
Firefighters continued improving firelines on the south end of the fire area to protect private property and are working on establishing firelines on the north end. Firefighters conducted low intensity backburns Monday afternoon to reduce fuels and buffer firelines. Folks in the area can expect to see smoke from the backburns.
Approximately 150 firefighters were on scene on Monday. The U.S. Forest Service is leading fire response efforts, with support from the North Carolina Forest Service, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, Burke and McDowell County Emergency Management, and North Carolina Emergency Management. No structures are currently at risk.
Consideration for firefighter and public safety is the highest priority. The public should be aware of the potential for smoke in the area and heed all area and trail closures.
An area closure is in effect for all U.S. Forest Service lands east of State Road 1238 (Old NC 105 / Kistler Memorial Highway), south of Conley Cove Trail (Tr #229), south of Table Rock Picnic Area, west of Back Irish Creek Forest Service Road #118 (Blue Gravel Road) and Roses Creek Forest Service Road #99, north of Highway 126. In addition, the following trails are closed: Shortoff Trail (Tr #235), Rock Jock Trail (Tr #247), Pinch-In Trail (Tr #228), Linville Gorge Trail (Tr #231) south of Conley Cove Trail (Tr #229), Mountains to Sea Trail (Tr #440) from State Road 1238 at Pinnacles to the Table Rock Picnic Area, and any social trails existing within the closure area. Public entry is prohibited within this area.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.