FLEETWOOD-After battling throughout the night, firefighters believe they have 40 percent of the Fleetwood fire contained.
That news comes from the NC Forest Service’s Tim Lewis shortly before 7 a.m. Monday. Lewis estimated the fire has grown to some 120 acres since a Sunday morning structure fire on Hidden Pasture Road – just off Paul Goodman Road in Fleetwood – got out of hand and morphed into a forest fire.
“This is certainly the biggest fire we’ve dealt with in years,” Lewis said. “With the winds as high as they are it makes for some pretty erratic fire behavior.”
Lewis said at least 12 local fire agencies, including multiple departments from both Wilkes and Watauga Counties, worked throughout Sunday night and into Monday morning to control the blaze.
Fire trucks could be seen filling up their water tanks from Old Fields Creek Sunday before heading further up the road to battle the fire.
Smoke could be seen from as far as West Jefferson and Todd. The Ashe County Sheriff’s Department and N.C. Forest the Ashe County Rescue Squad also pitched in to help on the scene.
Currently, the fire is primarily located in a containment area that encompasses a 400-500 acre wooded area between Mile High Lake Road, Sierra Road and US 221, according to a press release issued by the NC Forest Service.
“The NC Forest Service plans to fully contain the fire using natural barriers and a burn-out,” according to the release. “Burn-out operations involve working inside a control line to allow the fire to consume fuel between the edge of the fire and the control line.”
Burn-out operations take away the fuel so that if the winds pick up there’s nothing there to burn, said NC Forest Ranger Tim Lewis.
There are 14 houses and 9 other structures nearby and some residents have voluntarily evacuated but no official evacuation orders have been issued.
“We ask that residents monitor the local radio stations, local newspaper sites and the Ashe County Emergency Management Facebook page for updates. Please do not call the 911 communications center with questions about the fire or school operations as this takes them away from emergency calls. We will attempt to keep updates posted periodically on the fire,” Emergency Management Coordinator Patty Gambill said. “We appreciate all the donations and assistance from the community,” she added. “It has been a tremendous help.”
Lewis said he expects the fire to expand in the near term, and said he believes some 450 acres will ultimately be involved.
“If things go good today and we get all the burnout done, I’d say we’ll be working on this thing until at least Wednesday,” Lewis said. “A lot of it depends on weather and resources that we’ve ordered and we hope we them them. Right now we’re just strapped for everything with the fires going on all over the southeast. Right now we’ve got crews, I think, from California, Alaska and Oregon heading this way to help out.”
Ashe County also pitched in Sunday to help firefighters on the line by bringing food and supplies to the Fleetwood Fire Department.
“God is good and people in Ashe County are generous,” Brittany Huffman Phillips wrote online Sunday night. “The men and women are still out fighting. Please pray. It will be a long day. We will have Fleetwood Fire Dept open all night and all day until this fire is contained.”
Reach Adam Orr at 336-489-3058.