Rain Keeps Wildfires From Spreading

Monday, November 6th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Light rain kept fires along North Carolina's mountains from spreading, but firefighters were unable to make much headway because of wet conditions and steep terrain.

Nine blazes charred nearly 10,000 acres of national forest and private property in North Carolina, while fires also continued to burn in Virginia and eastern Kentucky and Tennessee.

About 400 firefighters and another 100 support staff battled a 5,600- acre blaze Sunday on federal land near North Carolina's scenic Linville Falls.

The crews include elite hotshot crews from New Mexico and California working along with local volunteer fire departments, said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Leona Rodreick.

``It's a big fire for this area,'' said firefighter Horace Brooks of Asheville, who traveled around the country's hotspots this year, including Arizona, Florida, Montana and Texas. ``But this is really a small fire.''

The wildfire was about 70 percent contained and all fire lines had held Sunday. It was expected to reach 11,000 acres before being starved out by controlled burns planned for Monday morning.

Forest fires also flared up Sunday in eastern Tennessee as light rain ended, while on the Cumberland Plateau firefighters worried that expected strong winds could spread blazes on Monday unless it rains first.

``We're right back up to where we were two or three days ago,'' said Paul Ensminger, spokesman for the Tennessee Forestry Division in Knoxville.

In Tennessee's Anderson County, eight arson fires have burned 9,000 acres. In Sevier County, firefighters battled to save about 100 homes on Shields Mountain outside of Pigeon Forge.

``People were packed up to leave their houses,'' Ensminger said. ``There was one house that had fire touching the deck, but they were dropping water in people's yards to keep the fire from getting up there.''

About 26,000 acres were burning in the southeast portion of Kentucky, a forestry official said Sunday. The state's Division of Forestry said 34 fires were burning across the state.

Two large fires in Virginia's Shenandoah National Park merged on Sunday, covering more than 13,200 total acres, state forest officials said.

Light rain over the weekend helped firefighters in North Carolina by keeping the largest wildfires from spreading, but it also kept firefighters from making up any ground.

``We weren't really able to catch up too much because the rain made the rocks slippery and we had to pull our guys out,'' said U.S. Forest spokesman Ty Mizer. ``The rain temporarily helped the effort, but was easily dried up when the sun came out and active burning resumed at 10 a.m.''


On the Net:

North Carolina Division of Forest Resources: http://www.dfr.state.nc.us

Southern Area Coordination Center: http://www.r8web.com/sacc

U.S. Forest Service in North Carolina: http://www.cs.unca.edu/nfsnc

National Interagency Fire Center: http://www.nifc.gov