HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — Air quality in the North Carolina mountains remained at dangerous levels as a massive wildfire burning for more than two weeks in Cherokee County grew by nearly 50% into Tuesday — scorching just under 3,000 acres — and remaining uncontained.
Meanwhile, a large wildfire near Hendersonville remained steady at 431 acres with 15% containment. Officials said more than 70 structures were threatened while two homes near Edneyville have been destroyed and one damaged by the fire Poplar Drive Fire.
Two firefighters have suffered injuries in the wildfire, the North Carolina Forest Service said on Tuesday.
New videos on Tuesday showed a rapid brush fire that came within feet of homes in Asheville over the weekend — proving that just about anywhere in the dry mountains is vulnerable to wildfires.
A Code Red air quality alert Tuesday continued for southwestern North Carolina with the active wildfires while other nearby mountain counties were in a Code Orange alert. Forecasters said the same Red and Orange air quality alerts would continue Wednesday.
With a lack of significant rain and very low humidity, state officials said “we do not anticipate any major changes to the current wildfires burning in the southwestern counties.”
In Haywood County — in addition to a ban on outdoor burning — officials continue reminding people about open flames. In the last two days, there were nine outside fires with one large fire in Haywood County, emergency management officials said. Crews also investigated seven reports of smoke.
Rapid-moving Asheville fire shows all areas are vulnerable
Meanwhile, dramatic video surfaced from a wildfire Sunday afternoon in west Asheville that threatened several homes — and came within 15 feet of a home in the Westmore Drive area, fire officials said.
The fast-moving brush fire jumped Deaverview Road and quickly spread like a wall of flames, video showed. In one case, fire crews had to leap over a “high privacy fence” and managed to put out the blaze, the Asheville Fire Department said.
Two planes flew over within 15 seconds, dropping water on the scene around noon Sunday. No injuries were reported.
Video from the Asheville fire scene showed a large scorched area with a wall of flames and smoke smoldering just half a block from several homes with some neighborhood residents standing outside. Photos showed smoke and burned areas in and around homes.
Fire near Hendersonville could see ‘reignition’ despite slow growth
The Poplar Drive Fire, which is in Henderson County near Hendersonville and the Edneyville community, continues to burn, but officials said they managed to make a small dent in containing the blaze.
“Firefighting personnel continue to provide structure protection and hold, strengthen and mop up containment lines,” the N.C. Forest Service said Tuesday.
The fire near Bald Top Mountain remained at about 430 acres on Tuesday and crews managed to contain 15% of the blaze.
“Potential for fire reignition is elevated due to leaf fall and snags,” crews added. The fire itself “continues to back, creep, and smolder.”
Massive wildfire swells again in just a day in Cherokee County
The largest fire of the group — called the Collette Ridge Fire — has grown from just a lightning strike on Oct. 23 to 2,919 acres on Tuesday just four miles south of Andrews in Cherokee County. On Monday, the fire was around 2,100 acres, so it grew by nearly 50% in just a day.
“The fire is burning is very steep, forested, and remote terrain making it very difficult to access directly,” the U.S. Forest Service said. More than 110 firefighters are working at the scene.
Very Large Air Tankers dropped 12,000 gallons of fire retardant on the southwestern corner of the Collette Ridge Fire and a helicopter dropped water a few times on the southeastern corner.
Weekend wildfire in Jackson County remains at 125
The third wildfire — which started over the weekend — continues at 125 acres in Jackson County with some threatened structures.
The East Fork Fire was first reported Saturday in the Nantahala Ranger District of the Nantahala National Forest. The fire is approximately 125 acres, the cause unknown, and located within the Savannah Fire District. The U.S. Forest Service is working with N.C. Forest Service.
“Fire behavior is very active and is burning in steep and rugged terrain. Firefighters are working on establishing containment lines around the fire and conducting burn-out operations where terrain and weather conditions allow. Crews are providing structure protections to a few threatened structures in the area,” the U.S. Forest Service said.
With dozens of fire crews from across North Carolina deployed to the area, many fire agencies need places to stay and food. Fruitland Baptist Bible College and Fruitland Baptist Church in Hendersonville opened their facilities for firefighters on Tuesday.
“They have done an awesome job of containing the fire but will be on site for several more days,” the church said about firefighters. “Continue to keep these men and women in your prayers.”
On Friday, a cold front will drape across the state from north to south which should help temper smoke impacts statewide, North Carolina officials said about the air quality outlook.