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Apr 1, 2015

03:46:49 GMT--Forest / Wild Fire - North-America - USA

EDIS Number: WF-20150401-47572-USA

Date / time: 01/04/2015 03:44:15 [UTC]

Event: Forest / Wild Fire

Area: North-America

Country: USA

State/County: State of North Carolina

Location: [Ridgecrest Drive, Black Mountain]

Number of Deads: N/A

Number of Injured: N/A

Number of Infected: N/A

Number of Missing: N/A

Number of Affected: N/A

Number of Evacuated: N/A

Damage level: Heavy


Emergency crews from multiple agencies continued late Tuesday to battle a massive brush fire encompassing about 500 acres in the Ridgecrest area. At least five structure fires were reported as towering plumes of smoke could be seen stretching across the mountains from the interstate. No major injuries were reported, Black Mountain Fire Department Chief Steve Jones said. The fire was reported around 2:30 p.m., and flames sped east, Jones said. Strong winds gusting to nearly 30 mph at one point hampered containment, and the blaze continued to rage well past nightfall even as winds died down. At one point, flames shot up to 100 feet, Jones said. People were evacuated from Dunsmore Avenue, and one house was destroyed, he said. Other nearby residents were encouraged to leave their homes. Agencies from across Western North Carolina, including the Red Cross, responded. "You name it, emergency services are here," Jones said. Multiple helicopters battled the blaze. One briefly landed on the Interstate 40 overpass at Exit 66 before leaving and returning to the scene with water retrieved from nearby Lake Tomahawk. An automated call from the town of Black Mountain asked residents to avoid that part of the interstate. By 11 p.m., everyone who was evacuated was able to return to their homes, said Bruce MacDonald, public information officer with the North Carolina Forest Service. "We will have folks on the fire all night long," he said at that time. "If something unforeseeable happens, we'd be able to respond and notify people." He said the humidity was increasing and the burning intensity was decreasing, but "we're continuing to work to hold the fire in place." Earlier in the evening, agencies were still evaluating the scope of structural damage. "There are still winds up here that are moving the fire along," MacDonald said around 8:30 p.m. "We're not going to call anything contained." He said the fire was not threatening Old Fort, but had spread into the Grandfather District of Pisgah National Forest. Two U.S. Forest Service crews were on that site, but the fire's spread in that area was not clear. Point Lookout, Kitsuma and Young's Ridge trail systems were closed, the U.S. Forest Service said. MacDonald predicted burning would continue overnight because of dry conditions and said emergency crews' priority was working to secure structures in direct proximity. "Winds are predicted to drop so that would help us a lot if that would happen," he said of overnight efforts. A forecaster with the Weather Channel said winds were 12 mph with gusts up to 27 mph at Asheville Regional Airport at 3 p.m., the closest recording site to Black Mountain. Gust speed fell from that time on and by 9 p.m., winds were 5 mph from the west with no gusts. The Red Cross posted on Twitter late Tuesday that the community had rallied with support for emergency responders. The agency also said it is available to help people displaced from homes.

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