PILOT MOUNTAIN — Monday night’s rain has caused North Carolina Forest Service and Division of Parks and Recreation officials to re-evaluate plans for using volunteer fire department tankers on a large scale to help mop up forest fire hot spots.
According to Forest Service Public Information Officer David Brown, the fire is now 98 percent contained. Officials used GPS data to more accurately map the containment lines around the fire and have set the amount of acreage affected at 675 acres.
Brown’s press release Tuesday indicated firefighters spent Tuesday patrolling firebreaks and extinguishing any smoldering debris near the fire breaks. A small group of firefighters was expected to remain on patrol at fire lines Tuesday night.
With up to .6 inches of rain falling on the burned area Monday night, Brown said many of the hot spots that firefighters were unable to reach have been extinguished.
Only one hot spot remained Tuesday night that was a concern, and that was on the northwest side of the fire.
“Before the rain, there was some consideration of using volunteer fire department units to fill drop tanks with water at various areas which we would use on hot spots,” explained Brown. “With the rain we are not sure if the water need we had planned on is as great now.”
Brown said two volunteer fire departments are involved with setting up and filling drop tanks Tuesday. He said he also anticipates some other volunteer department trucks will be used to pump water for use on smoldering spots. Brown said Pilot Knob Volunteer Fire Department has been using its water tender truck and Ararat Volunteer Fire Department also has had a vehicle used as a water tender.
He said when the fire was more active earlier local volunteer fire department units had been used at the ready around trigger point areas. Typically, the service uses trigger points to determine if additional help gets called in to protect private property.
“We will often have volunteer fire departments come in and stand by a trigger point,” said Brown. “We called in a volunteer fire department Sunday when this was the case and have used them throughout the fire to some degree.”
He said a helicopter was on stand by throughout the day Tuesday, but was not needed to drop water, and a scout plane had been used to help spot smoldering areas. Brown explained traditionally in rocky terrain like Pilot Mountain emphasis is put on keeping the containment lines wet and letting the fire burn back in on itself.
“The rain we had helped put the fire down but it won’t put it out,” said Brown. He indicated that Pilot Mountain State Park will remain closed until park personnel have assessed all roads and trails for safety hazards such as fallen or overhanging dead trees.
While the mountain portion of the park is closed, the Yadkin River and Corridor sections of the park are open to visitors. Brown said the mountain section many reopen in stages as the areas affected by the fire are determined to be safe.
Officials said earlier the low intensity of the fire damaged very little standing timber. Damage to park facilities was confined to burned fence rails and posts at viewing areas. In addition to utility vehicles, three bulldozers and 83 personnel, including seven hand crews, were used to fight the blaze.
Brown reported that an assessment of the park’s roads, trails and bulldozer constructed fire breaks has begun to determine rehabilitation needs, and crews were expected to begin rehab work Wednesday.
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.