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Newsdesk - 2017

Dobson Knob Fire Acreage Increases Due to Burnout Operations

April 13, 2017
Helicopter over Dobson Knob Fire

A combination of fire growth and burnout operations increased the fire size to 1,405 acres. The acreage number was also improved by air mapping of the fire footprint. Containment also rose to 15 percent. Yesterday’s burnout operations on the northern and western sides of the fire were successful. Today’s operations include patrolling and extinguishing remaining hotspots near established containment lines on the western, northern and eastern sides of the fire. Additional assessment and planning to contain the fire to the south is ongoing. Structure protection will continue in the Ashford and North Cove communities.

Lighter winds and cooler nighttime temperatures prevailing into the weekend, may cause ground level smoke to occur in communities near the fire. A Code Orange Air Quality Action Day has been issued by the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality for Burke and McDowell Counties. An Action Day means particulate concentrations within the region may approach or exceed unhealthy standards. Area residents and visitors with respiratory sensitive conditions should take appropriate actions. Avoiding outdoor activities, keeping doors and windows closed and operating air conditioning systems are some common practices to avoid smoke inhalation.

A community meeting will be held tonight at the Woodlawn Baptist Church in Marion. The meeting will start at 7 p.m.; fire officials will review progress on suppression operations and respond to questions about the fire.

The wildfire has caused some trail closures, including a portion of the Mountains to Sea Trail being used to contain the fire. All forest trail and forest road closures can be found on the National Forests in North Carolina website.

Additional personnel and equipment resources have been brought in to fight the fire. The number of personnel assigned to the fire has increased to 180. The Incident Command Post is operating out of the McDowell Technical Community College Small Business Center, known as the Universal Advanced Manufacturing Center.

Additional fire information can be found on INCIWEB.

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Dobson Knob Fire Burnout Operations Continue

April 12, 2017 Image of Dobson Knob Fire

The Dobson Knob Fire is now 550 acres and 10 percent contained. Successful burnout operations occurred yesterday east of the fire using the Mountains to Sea Trail as a fire break. Additional burnout operations are planned for today on a dozer line completed north of the fire that connects Forest Road 106 (Dobson Knob Road) to Old Linville Road. To the west of the fire, structure protection will continue and firefighters will burn out hazardous pockets of fuel. The fire is somewhat limited in growth and intensity to the south due its proximity to the Bald Knob Fire footprint that consumed a major amount of hazardous fuel in 2015.

Today’s forecasted higher humidity and calm winds should moisten fine fuels and moderate fire behavior. Light northwest winds may push smoke to the south and east, creating a haze or light ground smoke to form in surrounding communities. There is a slight chance of afternoon showers and thunderstorms that could further wet fuels; however, the gusty, erratic winds that can accompany thunderstorms may temporarily increase fire behavior.

A community meeting will be held tomorrow at the Woodlawn Baptist Church in Marion. The meeting will start at 7 p.m.; fire officials will review progress on suppression operations and respond to questions about the fire.

The wildfire has caused some trail closures, including a portion of the Mountains to Sea Trail being used to contain the fire. All forest trail and forest road closures can be found on the National Forests in North Carolina website.

The U.S. Forest Service and N.C. Forest Service fire officials caution anyone attempting to operate a drone in and around the fire footprint. Unauthorized drones pose a real danger to aircraft and flight personnel assigned to fire operations, and are prohibited from use around wildfires. Additional fire information can be found on INCIWEB.

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Look for signs of pine beetle in trees
Drought in Western N.C. leaves pines more susceptible to attacks
March 22, 2017

RALEIGH – People often expect insects to be most active in the warm days of summer, but pine bark beetles can be active any time of year.

Kelly Oten, forest health monitoring coordinator with the N.C. Forest Service, tells landowners with pine on their property what they should look for so pine bark beetles don’t leave them pining for healthy trees.

“One of the first symptoms noticed is needle discoloration in the canopy,” Oten said. “The green needles fade to light green, then yellow, then eventually red. Upon closer inspection, you may see dried pine resin on the bark of the tree. These are called pitch tubes and are the tree’s defense to a bark beetle attempting to bore through the bark.”

Adult and immature beetles feed beneath the bark, creating winding tunnels that can be seen if the bark is peeled off, Oten said. These galleries prevent nutrients and water from traveling within the tree, effectively choking it.

Most bark-beetle activity occurs in pines that are stressed or weakened by another factor. The current drought in Western North Carolina leaves many pines susceptible to beetle attack. Other factors that may increase susceptibility to attack are nutrient deficiencies, mechanical damage and lightning strikes.

There are a few types of bark beetles that attack pine trees in North Carolina. The Ips engraver beetles are likely the most common. They rarely attack healthy trees and generally infest small groups or scattered pines. They can cause branches or the entire tree to die.

Generally, the southern pine beetle also attacks weakened trees. However, it can reach outbreak levels and become extremely destructive, Oten said. When this happens, healthy trees are also attacked and a quick response is necessary. This response typically involves cutting down the infested pine trees and surrounding trees to create a buffer.

Landowners suspecting bark-beetle activity in their trees should contact their N.C. Forest Service county ranger, who can assist with identification and offer forest management advice. To find your county ranger visit the main contact page.

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N.C. Forest Service’s Linville River Nursery to close June 30
March 13, 2017

RALEIGH – After 47 years of production, the N.C. Forest Service’s Linville River Nursery in Crossnore will cease operations June 30.

James West, head of the Nursery and Tree Improvement Program, said it was a difficult but necessary decision. The program’s input costs remain too high, making the mountain nursery unsustainable.

“Since all our nurseries must generate their own income, this decision had to be made to keep the overall nursery program more financially sound,” West said.

When the nursery first began production of Fraser fir seedlings in 1970, almost all the seedlings planted in North Carolina were coming from the Linville River Nursery. In 2016, less than 9 percent of the Fraser fir seedlings planted in the state were produced by the N.C. Forest Service.

The Linville Nursery is a small operation funded by the sale of Fraser fir and eastern white pine seedlings. The NCFS decided to stop growing seedlings at the location because sales income was not covering production costs, West said. The nursery had an average shortfall of $104,000 in each of the last four years.

The production of eastern white pine seedlings will be relocated to Claridge Nursery in Goldsboro, where all other species grown by N.C. Forest Service are produced. This move will use available staff and facilities, while combining resources for more efficient operations, West said.

Three staff members will be affected by the Linville nursery’s closure. Two will be transferred to other positions within the NCFS, and a position for the third person is being sought. Until then, affected employees will be involved in relocating equipment and resources to Claridge Nursery.

The Linville Nursery is located at the NCFS Mountain Training Facility, and the nursery’s lands and buildings will be transferred to that program.The remaining Fraser fir seed in storage will be offered for sale to the public over the next several years to maintain market stability.

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Be careful when burning debris in spring
Wildfire risk typically higher from March to May
March 10, 2017

Pile of debris burning

RALEIGH – The N.C. Forest Service is urging residents across the state to think safety and exercise caution during the spring fire season, which typically lasts from March to May.

“During the spring fire season, people do a lot of yard work that often includes burning leaves and yard debris,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “There are many factors to consider before doing any burning.” North Carolinians thinking about burning debris should contact their county ranger for advice first, Troxler said. “The ranger can help maximize safety for people, property and the forest.”

Follow guidelines to reduce risk of wildfire. For people who choose to burn debris, the NCFS urges them to adhere to the following tips to protect property and prevent wildfires:

  • Consider alternatives to burning. Some yard debris, such as leaves and grass, may be more valuable if composted.
  • Check with your county fire marshal’s office for local laws on burning debris. Some communities allow burning only during specified hours; others forbid it entirely.
  • Make sure you have an approved burning permit, which can be obtained at any NCFS office, county-approved burning permit agent, or online at
  • Check the weather. Don’t burn if conditions are dry or windy.
  • Only burn natural vegetation from your property. Burning household trash or any other man-made materials is illegal. Trash should be hauled away to a convenience center.
  • Plan burning for the late afternoon when conditions are typically less windy and more humid.
  • If you must burn, be prepared. Use a shovel or hoe to clear a perimeter around the area where you plan to burn.
  • Keep fire tools ready. To control the fire, you will need a hose, bucket, a steel rake and a shovel for tossing dirt on the fire.
  • Never use flammable liquids such as kerosene, gasoline or diesel fuel to speed burning.
  • Stay with your fire until it is completely out. In North Carolina, human carelessness leads to more wildfires than any other cause. In fact, debris burning is the No. 1 cause of wildfires in the state.
  • These same tips hold true for campfires and barbecues, too. Douse burning charcoal briquettes or campfires thoroughly with water. When the coals are soaked, stir them and soak them again. Be sure they are out cold and carefully feel to be sure they are extinguished. Never dump hot ashes or coals into a wooded area.
  • Burning agriculture residue and forestland litter: In addition to the guidelines above, a fire line should be plowed around the area to be burned. Large fields should be separated into small plots for burning one at a time.
  • Before doing any burning in a wooded area, contact your county ranger, who will weigh all factors, explain them and offer technical advice.
  • For more information on ways you can prevent wildfires and loss of property visit

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This page updated: Thursday, March 23, 2017 12:19

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