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Cold weather, dry conditions increase fire danger in WNC

The U.S. Forest Service has already had to deal with one significant woods fire in the mountains -- Coxes Creek No. 7 Fire. (Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service)

Temperatures are well below freezing across the mountains, but exposure to cold isn't the only risk.

The U.S. Forest Service has already had to deal with one significant woods fire in the mountains -- Coxes Creek No. 7 Fire.

Dry tinder on the ground, woods nearby and houses not far away. Officials said this can be a recipe for trouble with fire season just getting started.

Some folks in the Turkey Cove community along N.C. 226-A in Pisgah National Forest near Marion had a close call in the week leading up to Christmas.

The Coxes Creek No. 7 Fire was called in Dec. 18. The fire on U.S. Forest Service and private property grew from about 30 acres to almost 200 by day's end. Six homes were in danger.

"On south facing slopes, when the sun gets on them and the leaves are down, it can really move quickly, and luckily firefighters were able to protect the homes and get lines around it," said Lisa Jennings, of the USFS's Grandfather Ranger District.

Fire lines were cut and back burns set, bringing the fire into full containment almost two days later.

"It's just too close for comfort," George Larson said while watching the wildfire fight being waged in the nearby woods. "It was intimidating to know that the fire would be that close to homes and families."

Fire officials said one of the biggest fire threats comes from people trying to stay warm in weather in cold weather -- improper disposal of hot ash and embers.

"When people are clearing out the ash from those wood stoves, after burning so much wood on these cold nights, and they're just putting it outside," Jennings said. "Either get them wet or put them in a fireproof container, like a metal trash can, and let them sit there for over a week. Those are the big things that we ask people to watch out for, because just a small ash or small spark can cause a really big fire."

The Coxes Creek No. 7 Fire is still under investigation. Officials said they hope it serves as a reminder of how careful we all need to be.

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