One year later: Looking back at lessons from the Party Rock Fire

A firefighter fighting the blaze when the fire was still only 19 percent contained, and had burned 5714 acres. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

It's now been a year since the Party Rock Fire blazed over 7000 acres of land here in Western North Carolina.

More than 1000 emergency personnel from 24 different states fought the fire that burned for 24 days.

Since then, fire officials have looked back to find areas of improvement on fighting wildfires. Bulldozers, helicopters, and fire-lines were all used to fight the fire, and some techniques were ineffective.

"The agencies had to rely on other ways to let the fire burn out...we really had to back it up, and change our plans constantly, and use paved roads. That was the only thing that would really slow down the fire," said Chimney Rock State Park Superintendent James Ledgerwood.

"One of the things we would have done is try to get resources in the area a lot sooner. There was so many fires across North Carolina, on U.S. Forest Service as well as N.C. Forest Service, and it just took a little while to get the resources here," said Victoria Tilloston of the North Carolina Forest Service

Forest personnel said it was their training and effective communication between multiple agencies that prevented homes from being destroyed.

"We had structures over here that we had to protect the night that it hit Rumbling Bald Resort. We had a fire truck stationed at every hour, and it looked like an army of firefighters," Ledgerwood said.

"One of the things we learned is all of the training that we are doing with North Carolina emergency management, it really paid off. When the large incident was over 7000 acres, it all was very seamless and it worked very effectively, and it proved all the training that we do really paid off.

On the day of the one-year anniversary since the fire, a group of hikers went to the site where it all started.

The ground is now a site for reflection.

"It's very difficult situation, telling people you need to leave your business or home because a fire is on its way," Ledgerwood said. "Whenever these large groups came together, that team effort was very unified and helped us a lot when it came to preserving life and structure."

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