FLEETWOOD-After more than a day of sustained operations, firefighters have some 70 percent of the Fleetwood fire contained.
According to an email issued by Ashe County Emergency Management Coordinator Patty Gambill shortly before 5 p.m. Monday, some 435 acres have been burned so far by a blaze that began as a structure fire on Hidden Pasture Road – just off Paul Goodman Road in Fleetwood – Sunday morning that got out of hand and morphed into a forest fire.
“Established containment lines are holding in the 400-500acre area between Mile High Lake Road, Sierra Road and US 221,” according to Gambill. “Structure protection and containment operations will continue tomorrow.”
NC Forest Service Ranger Tim Lewis said Monday morning firefighters had worked throughout the night to contain the blaze and called it the biggest Ashe County fire in years.
“With the winds as high as they are it makes for some pretty erratic fire behavior,” Lewis said.
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.
“The NC Forest Service plans to fully contain the fire using natural barriers and a burn-out,” according to a NC Forest Service press release issued Monday. “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 Monday morning he expects 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.”
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.