Air Quality & Wildfire Containment Improving - Weather Next Few Days Crucial In Keeping It That Way

Nov 15, 2016

Credit North Carolina Air Quality Forecast Center

Crews fighting wildfires throughout western North Carolina reported progress in containing wildfires in Clay, Swain, and Macon Counties.  But the Party Rock fire near Lake Lure and Chimney Rock continues to grow, and authorities believe that will only increase later this week.

The Party Rock fire is now 3,744 acres, up from 3,457 on Monday.  Weather conditions have slowed the increasing size of the fire.  But with warmer temperatures and lower humidity levels on the way starting Wednesday, the fire is likely to grow according to the North Carolina Forest Service.  The NCFS adds a strong cold front arriving on Saturday is not forecast to bring enough moisture to slow the fire, but rather its expected gusty winds could push flames toward Weed Patch Mountain and the Gray Rock community.

Fire map of western North Carolina
Credit U.S. Forest Service

The Tellico fire remains the largest in the region, at 13,679 acres.  But crews report the fire in Swain and Macon Counties is 68 percent contained, a significant jump from Monday.  Residents who had to be evacuated  because of this fire were allowed to return home earlier this week.  The Boteler fire, at 8,967 acres in Clay County, is 43 percent contained, also an improvement from Monday.

Masks like these were passed out at the Macon County Health Department
Credit U.S. Forest Service

Air quality also improved in much of western North Carolina on Tuesday.  In Buncombe and all counties to its west, the North Carolina Air Quality Forecast labeled the air "unhealthy for sensitive groups".  That includes people with respiratory conditions and asthma.  Counties to the east of Buncombe all the way to Charlotte had air labeled "unhealthy" for all.  On Monday, the four westernmost counties - Clay, Cherokee, Graham, Macon - had air labeled Code Purple "very unhealthy", the worst possible designation from the state.  Depending on the weather, air quality levels could vary for the rest of the week. 

                                                              

Amy Michaels brings in donations for WNC firefighters at a collection station at the McCormick Field Box Office in Asheville.
Credit WCQS

                                                                                                             With no end in sight to the fires, groups across the region are collecting donations for firefighters.

The souvenir shop at the Asheville Tourists ball park has become a makeshift donation collection center.

Alongside  the bats balls and Tshirts is a growing pile of supplies including bottled water ,baby wipes,  and lip balm.

Donors get a pair of tickets to a Tourists game..

Asheville Tourists General manager Larry Hawkins says he’s been thrilled at the response.

“It’s been fantastic, within 45 minutes of putting out a Facebook  post people were bringing items, so it’s been great, “ says Hawkins.

Season ticket holders Amy Michaels and her husband Paul stopped by with a trunk load of donations

“We brought in water, lotion, granola bars, “ says Michaels,  “the firefighters are saving our forests and trees and this is one way we can help.”

“It’s really incredible , and it’s awesome, “ says Kelley  Klope, Public Information Officer for the Asheville Fire department, “ “The community really wants to help at a time when we all feel helpless”

Klope says fighting wildfires requires more manual labor than a structure fire .and  the firefighter supply request list reflects that.

“Things  like bandaids, lip balm, moleskin padding, things that if you were a hiker and were out for long periods of time, what would keep your feet comfortable, snack food, maybe MREs  that could be packed easily and eaten whenever is convenient.”

Items that firefighters are in need of:

-Lip Balm

-Eye Drops

Donations for firefighters pile up at the McCormick Field Box Office.

-Burt's Bees Facial Moisturizer

-Moleskin shoe liners

-Bandaids

-Baby Wipes

-Bottled Water or Sports Drinks

-Jerky, energy bars and other portable snacks

-Boot Socks (sturdy performance socks)

-Lotion

-Shampoo and Conditioner

-Shaving Supplies

Donation drop-off locations:

Firefighter donations are now being accepted at the McCormick Field ServPro Box Office,  30 Buchanan Place in Asheville during stadium hours of operation of 8:30am-5:30pm, Monday-Friday. All donors will receive a pair of complimentary tickets to a future, select Asheville Tourists game.

Other donation sites include:

Fairview Fire Department on Highway 74-A

The Food Lion in Fairview is taking donations during business hours, 7 a.m. -11 p.m. seven days a week.

The Black Mountain Chamber is taking donations  weekdays 9-5.

Blue Ghost Brewing Company is taking donations until 8 p.m. at 125 Underwood Road in Fletcher.

Boys & Girls Club of Henderson County from 9 a.m. - 6 p.m at 1304 Ashe Street in Hendersonville.