It’s more than a hint of woodsmoke in the air the last couple of days as haze from forest fires in western North Carolina, northeastern Georgia and southeast Tennessee drifts into South Carolina. In addition, a fire is burning in Table Rock State Park on Pinnacle Mountain, the smoke socking in Greenville last night. The South Carolina Forestry Commission has reported that the fire is up to 250 acres since it started on Tuesday. The 30 firefighters putting in handline were pulled off the line yesterday due to the steep terrain and worsening conditions, but will be back at work today along with additional crews and SC National Guard helicopters, which are being used for bucket drops from nearby Lake Oolenoy. Firefighters from the SC Forestry Commission, the SC DNR, local volunteer fire departments and the Pickens County Strike Team are working together to contain the fire which was started accidentally by a campfire near the Foothills Trail. The blaze had been almost completely contained until winds picked up Wednesday night, part of the arrival of the cold front that helped push the haze into South Carolina.
|Source: SC DNR on twitter|
The fire ban has been extended to the entire northern half of the state due to "... extremely low relative humidities, which, combined with dry fuels on the ground, create the potential for outdoor fires escaping easily and spreading rapidly.” Five counties are included in that ban – Anderson, Oconee, Pickens, Greenville and Spartanburg – which prohibits outdoor burning of debris and burning for agricultural, forestry or wildlife purposes.
|Source: SC Forestry Commission here|
As ominous as all this sounds, the situation in Pickens County is really quite mild when compared to the current fires in North Carolina. Historically the Southern Appalachians burn during drought years, and controlled burns are often conducted in the particular area that is currently burning to lower fuel loads. The fire will open up the canopy and clear the way for new growth.
|source: SC Forestry Commission here|
Table Rock Trail and Pinnacle Trail have been closed in addition to the 10-mile section of the Foothills Trail between Table Rock and Sassafras Mountain, but otherwise the State Park remains open. Call 864-878-9813 or email email@example.com for trail updates, and watch the fire in real-time on the SC Parks webcam here.
|A smoke sunset from Bald Rock Heritage Area, photographed by Monique R.|
Update November 16, 2016: Now 35% contained, at about 3,283 acres in size. Firefighters are preparing for a 2,000 acre burnout on Thursday, which will hopefully enable the fire to be contained before the cold front this weekend that will bring high winds and lower humidity.
Update November 18, 2016: Crew conducted a 1,400-acre burnout on the east side, in preparation for a cold front moving through along with high winds. A helicopter lit both sides of Table Rock, resulting in a low-intensity burn. Meanwhile ground crews conducted backburns from the firebreaks. The Pinnacle Mountain Fire is now 5,095 acres and 35% contained.
Update November 20, 2016: High winds allowed the fire to breach the northern line and make a run for Rocky Mountain. 5,400 acres and still onlyl 34% contained.
Update November 22, 2016: The Pinnacle Mountain Fire has grown to 6,000 acres as the portion that breached the north line continues to spread. Additional hand crews have joined containment efforts on this portion of the fire.
Update November 24, 2016: Burnout operations to strengthen the containment lines on the north side of the fire today were not completely successful due to showers in the morning. However, the rain did assist in slowing fire spread, and as a dozer line goes in south from White Oak Mountain, the fire is held west of Slickum Falls Rd and the Table Rock Reservoir. Currently, the fire is listed as 7,300 acres and 40% contained.