NEBO, N.C. (WLOS) — Rain expected tonight and Saturday is good news for crews fighting a wildfire in the Linville Gorge area.
Firefighters conducted burn out operations Friday to secure the southern edge of the White Creek Fire. The blaze, reported about 4 p.m. Thursday, is burning near Shortoff Mountain at the south end of Linville Gorge, on the Grandfather Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest. The fire is estimated at 75 acres and not contained.
The U.S. Forest Service said the fire was initially only 35 acres, but with the winds and very dry conditions it has grown.
Thursday night into Friday morning, firefighters worked to re-establish firelines on the south end of the fire with the goal of protecting private property. The Linville Gorge has an extensive fire history, allowing firefighters to fall back to existing lines established in the Table Rock (2013), Shortoff (2007) and Brushy Ridge (2000) fires.
Authorities said 100 firefighters were on scene Friday. The U.S. Forest Service is leading fire response efforts, with support from the North Carolina Forest Service, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, Burke County Emergency Management and North Carolina Emergency Management.
The U.S. Forest Service has issued an emergency closure for the Shortoff Trail (Trail #235) and the Mountains to Sea Trail (Trail #440) from Old Highway 105 at Pinnacles to the Table Rock Picnic Area. The public is asked to avoid the area. Fire managers are looking at a larger area closure that would include the southern portion of the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area.
Hikers at the gorge said they were turned around by crews because it was too dangerous.
"So, we were trying to do like this whole loop around the gorge. We were going to come up the east side and then down the west side. But, yeah, we got turned around. They had rangers, they had all different fire crews up there," college student Mike Vallerino said.
Fire officials said areas around Lake James and Morganton could see smoke Friday night, especially along Highway 181 between Oak Hill and Linville Falls. Smoke may also impact areas to the north and east as winds shift.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.