NEBO – Burnout operations and dry conditions Friday afternoon caused the White Creek fire to grow significantly, with the fire estimated at 585 acres Saturday afternoon.
Firefighters worked Friday night and Saturday to re-establish firelines on the south end of the wildfire near Shortoff Mountain. The blaze, initially reported to be 10 acres, was first spotted by hikers around 4 p.m. Thursday near at the southern end of the Linville Gorge wilderness on the Grandfather Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest. It grew to 75 acres by midday Friday.
The fire area received around a half-inch of rainfall overnight Friday into Saturday, which helped but did not extinguish the fire, according to the Forest Service. Surveys of the area found active flames still visible.
Firefighters conducted burn out operations Saturday to secure the southern edge of the fire. The Linville Gorge area has an extensive fire history, which allows firefighters to fall back to existing lines established in the Table Rock (2013), Shortoff (2007), and Brushy Ridge (2000) fires, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
For the protection of public health and safety, the U.S. Forest Service has issued an emergency closure for the Shortoff Trail (Trail No. 235) and the Mountains to Sea Trail (Trail No. 440) from Old N.C. 105 at Pinnacles to the Table Rock Picnic Area. Other trails also were closed.
All U.S. Forest Service lands east of State Road 1238 (Old N.C. 105/Kistler Memorial Highway), south of Conley Cove Trail (No. 229), south of Table Rock Picnic Area, and west of Back Irish Creek Forest Service Road 118 (Blue Gravel Road) and Roses Creek Forest Service Road 99, north of N.C. 126, are closed.
- Shortoff Trail (No. 235)
- Rock Jock Trail (No. 247)
- Pinch-In Trail (No. 228)
- Linville Gorge Trail (No. 231) south of Conley Cove Trail (No. 229)
- Mountains-to-Sea Trail (No. 440) from State Road 1238 at Pinnacles to the Table Rock Picnic Area
- Any social trails existing within the closure area
The public is asked to avoid the area. The closure area is subject to change with fire conditions, and fire managers are looking at a larger area closure that would include the southern portion of the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area.
By Saturday, 147 firefighters were on the scene. The U.S. Forest Service is leading fire response efforts, with support from the N.C. Forest Service, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, Burke County Emergency Management, and N.C. Emergency Management.