What we know about the forest fire still raging at Pilot Mountain in North Carolina

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Crews are battling a forest fire that has continued into a third day at Pilot Mountain State Park in North Carolina.

More than 50 firefighters were called to the “active woods fire” on the evening of Saturday, Nov. 27, according to the Pilot Knob Volunteer Fire Department. Volunteer fire departments were eventually “demobilized for the night” while crews from the North Carolina Forest Service and Pilot Mountain State Park remained on the scene.

Gov. Roy Cooper tweeted that his office has “been in communication with local officials responding to the fire” and that he “appreciates the tireless work of firefighters, the Forest Service and others to keep people safe.”

Efforts to contain the blaze continued into Monday, Nov. 29. Here’s what we know.

How large is the fire?

As of the afternoon of Nov. 28, North Carolina State Parks and Recreation said the fire had burned nearly 180 acres.

But Pilot Mountain Mayor Evan Cockerham wrote on Facebook later that evening that the fire — which local outlets reported started at Grindstone Trail — had spread “over a few hundred acres” due to strong winds and “dry fuels.”

Officials told WGHP that the blaze had spread to about 500 acres as of 11 a.m. Nov. 29.

“This is an ever changing fire and we will try to keep the community as updated as possible,” the Pilot Knob Fire Department wrote on Facebook on Nov. 27.

What caused the fire?

Officials don’t know yet. North Carolina Forest Service Ranger Jimmy Holt told local outlet WFMY that once the fire is under control, officials will be able to investigate how it started.

Officials with the forest service told Spectrum News and WFMY that the fire was “human-caused” in some way but that it’s still unclear exactly what caused it.

The fire comes during “abnormally dry” weather in much of North Carolina.

“Increased fire danger exists for most of the state,” the N.C. Forest Service wrote on Twitter. “Postpone any outdoor burning, especially across the Mountains, Piedmont and Sandhills. If you do burn, check for local restrictions on open burning. Have a water source and phone nearby. Never leave a fire unattended.”

Cockerham noted that there is “little chance of rain” in the area’s 10-day forecast.

“With that, there has been a ban on outdoor burning in Surry and surrounding counties and that ban continues,” the mayor wrote on Facebook. “If you see someone burning leaves, contact local law enforcement. Our firefighters have enough on their hands right now.”

Efforts to contain the fire

Holt told WFMY that crews met at 8 a.m. Nov. 29 before resuming efforts to contain the fire. He said airplanes will take off at 10 a.m. to start dumping water on the blaze, according to the outlet.

Cockerham said Nov. 28 that “our firefighters are working to provide water for the aerial response” and that the forest service “is also implementing fire lines in an effort to contain the blaze.”

The weather is working “against” firefighters right now, given the dry windy conditions, WGHP reported. Officials told WBTV that it could take crews several days to get the fire under control.

The public is asked to stay away from the area.

“We would like to remind everyone please don’t try and go get pictures from the Pilot Mountain Wildfire,” the Surry County Association of Rescue Squads wrote on Facebook. “And please do not fly any drones. Roads are narrow and crews need all the room they can get to work the fire. As always please allow emergency services to do their jobs and please stay clear of any dangerous areas.”

Cockerham said firefighters have been “overwhelmed with drinks and supplies” donations and said that those who want to help should instead make a donation online to go toward meals or equipment for first responders.

“I want to remind folks that the town of Pilot Mountain is still open for business! Our local stores will need your support as the mountain is a big economic driver for our region,” he wrote. “Please come out to support them. Downtown Pilot is a special place.”

Park closures

The campground was evacuated “without any injuries or damages,” the Pilot Knob Fire Department said Nov. 27.

All park accesses remain closed until further notice. North Carolina State Parks and Recreation said the park — which is located in Surry and Yadkin counties, about 100 miles north of Charlotte — will likely be closed all week.

The fire has so far been contained to state-owned property, officials told the Winston-Salem Journal. The outlet reported that “nearby landowners have not been evacuated and are not in harm’s way.”

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