Wind worsens mountain wildfires, forces evacuations

Congressman Mark Meadows tours the Boteler fire in Clay County on Wednesday. Wind and dry conditions threaten to worsen several wildfires burning across the mountains. (Photo credit: WLOS)

CLAY-MACON-GRAHAM COUNTIES, N.C. -- Wind threatens to worsen several wildfires in the mountains.

“The troubling part is that somebody apparently is intentionally setting some of these fires. And so we want to ask everyone to be on the lookout,” Congressman Mark Meadows said as he toured the Boteler Fire in Clay County on Wednesday.

Meadows said it’s a priority to protect the safety of residents and property. So far, firefighters have protected 46 structures from this fire. But they say wind on ridge tops could reach 35 miles an hour Wednesday night.

RELATED | Burn ban in effect until further notice for all of western NC

Late Wednesday, U.S. Forest Service and the Southern Area Incident Management Team issued this update:

“Due to increased growth and smoke from the Boteler Fire, mandatory evacuations have been issued for the following locations in Hayesville, North Carolina: Cedar Cliff Road, Pounding Mill Road and Pounding Mill Loop. Nelson Ridge Road and Cold Branch Road from Nelson Ridge Road intersection south to Cold Branch Drive.”

Click here to sign up for Clay County's CodeRED Emergency Notification System

Stephen Weaver, the Operation Section Chief with the Southern Area Incident Management Team, said wind sometimes pushes fires back onto land already burned.

“But around the corners of this, they can hook,” he said. “And then we get a running head fire and then, of course, it threatens the structures."

One of the biggest wildfires in our area continues to be the Tellico Fire in Macon County. Forest officials say some people have been forced to evacuate. The fire has burned more than 3,400 acres.

Evacuations have been issued for Gassaway Road and south at the junction of Gassaway and Wesser Creek Road south down Wesser Creek Road, and for those in the Queens Creek area of Nantahala. Those affected by the evacuation notice in the Partridge Creek and Deweese Road area of the Nantahala have been contacted.

The Town of Franklin issued a voluntary water conservation notice due to the historic dry weather.

“If the drought and the fire situation continues, the next step could be mandatory water conservation,” Mayor Bob Scott said. “Putting off car washing, not watering grass, and cutting back on other normal uses of town water is in the public’s interest at this time.”

Graham County’s Public Information Office said:

“The county is experiencing wildfires in the Goldmine, Gladdens Creek, East Buffalo, Jordan Hill and Ryefield Communities. Members of the Jordan Hill and Ryefield Branch communities are being EVACUATED at this time. Structures are in danger. This is the Old Roughy (in vicinity of Branch Creek) fire that started Tuesday night. As of this morning (Wednesday) the Avey Branch/Maples Springs fire north of Lake Santeetlah has grown to 3,919 acres. 18% of the perimeter is contained. 98 firefighters are working the blaze. Firefighters believe they will achieve 100% containment by Friday night.”
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