Flames, firefighters, and emergency decrees are blanketing Western North Carolina as state and local officials work to maintain multiple large wildfires.
The latest and most urgent of these is a cluster of six fires west of I-77 in Henderson County collectively called the Poplar Drive Fire which has burnt three structures and mobilized hundreds of firefighters from across the state since the fire was first reported on Nov. 3.
Henderson County Communications Chief Mike Morgan reported to The Hendersonville Times-News that two firefighters had been taken to UNC Health Pardee stating “We’ve had two firefighters who have been injured … one was an eye injury and one was a leg injury. Both of them were checked out and released,”
As of Nov. 9 the North Carolina Forest Service announced on the social media platform X that the wildfire is estimated to be 30% contained and spans 434 acres.
Near Andrews, NC a larger but less destructive blaze called the Collette Ridge Fire has continued to burn since Oct 23 and according to a Nov. 8 update from the US Forest Service is 0% contained and has consumed almost 4,000 acres. No structures are currently threatened but 120 firefighters and multiple aircraft are working to prevent the spread. 54,000 gallons of water and flame suppressants have already been deployed..
In response Governor Cooper announced a State of Emergency on Nov. 8 stating “I am grateful for the first responders who have jumped into action to help combat the ongoing wildfires in Western North Carolina.” Governor Cooper continued stating “The fires and the continued droughts across the state pose a risk to public health and safety and we want to ensure that all residents and their property remain safe and protected.”
The emergency area includes Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Cabarrus, Caldwell, Catawba, Cherokee, Clay, Cleveland, Gaston, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Iredell, Jackson, Lincoln, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mecklenburg, Mitchell, Polk, Rowan, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania, Union, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey counties, as well as tribal lands held by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
30 counties are also under a burn ban from the NC Forest Service. Burning permits have also been revoked in 16 counties.
Fire officials are hoping that an increased chance of rain this weekend will be a turning point in the fight and end the drought conditions that have exacerbated the emergency.