North Carolina issues statewide burn ban over Pilot Mountain forest fire

State - Regional

SURRY COUNTY, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – From miles away, the plume of smoke is impossible to miss. Pilot Mountain, a state park since 1968 is burning.

“It’s terrifying,” said resident Stacie Boggs. “It’s just our only biggest landmark, and it’s just going up in smoke.”

The fire started Saturday; the cause hasn’t yet been determined, but all signs point to one probability. At 5 p.m., N.C. Forest Service issued a ban on all open burning and canceled all burning permits statewide that will be effective until further notice.

“It was human-caused in some form and, once again, that’s a big window,” said NC Forest Ranger Jimmy Holt. “There’s a lot of possibilities there.”

Holt says 500 acres have burned, and they’re anticipating the wildfire will torch a total of 900 acres.

“That’s a lot,” said Boggs. “That is terrifying.”

Dry conditions, wind, and no rain in the forecast is worrying crews. The plan of attack is to contain what’s there, and keep it away from homes, the visitor center, and any other buildings on Pilot Mountain.

“We’re allowing the fire to back down the mountain because we can’t hold it where it’s at,” Holt said. “and then we will do a firing operation off those containment lines.”

Over at the local volunteer fire station, the community has shown up in full force bringing stacks of food and water.

“There’s a lot of support,” Lt. Matthew Norman said. “We can definitely feel the support from our community, and we’re really appreciative and they’ve been coming out all hours of the night since Saturday.”

Pilot Mountain, known for its signature knob at the top, is a popular hiking spot.

“We’d go up every Sunday after church,” said resident Joyce Oneal. “We’d get a picnic and sandwich and walk around the mountain.”

Now, many are wondering what will be left.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a quick recovery,” Boggs said.

The last prescribed burn was in 2019. Holt said it has helped firefighters battle the flames. Just 20 miles down the road, crews just finished smothering flames on Sauratown Mountain, proving how dry the area is and how desperately crews need the rain.

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