State of Emergency in Swain as fires spread

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Governor Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency for wildfires, in several Western North Carolina counties including Swain.

Currently, firefighters in Swain County are battling against the Tellico fire on the border of the Macon and Swain county lines, and the Ferebee fire in the Nantahala Gorge.

According to the US Forest Service, the Tellico fire is currently 10 percent contained and has burned 6,839 acres, as of 3 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 10. The Ferebee fire is 15 percent contained and burned 2,061 acres.

The U.S. Forest Service also enacted a Total Fire Ban for the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests earlier Thursday morning.

The Nantahala National Forest has more than 20 wildfires are burning on over 17,000 acres in total.

David Breedlove, Swain County EMS Coordinator, expects the Tellico and Ferebee fires to eventually combine in three days' time, seeing that there is no rain in the forecast.

Right now, there are mandatory evacuations for houses on the south side of Wesser Creek, Gassaway Road, East Silvermine Road and Taylor Road in the Nantahala Gorge.

“We’ve had to evacuate about 20 occupied houses and other summer homes that aren’t occupied,” said Breedlove.

Further evacuations will be likely as the fire continues to spread, he said.

Both fires are still under investigation for arson.

Breedlove said he does not expect to completely close Highway 19 in the Nantahala Gorge, but urges drivers to use extreme caution and be aware of possible fallen burning wood. 

Southwestern Community College at Almond and Nantahala Outdoor Center are providing emergency shelter for those in need. 

If anyone wants to help those fighting the fires, Breedlove said any food that can be carried like packaged sandwiches would be extremely helpful. The food can be delivered to the West Swain Volunteer Fire Department, located on Needmore Road.

Cherokee has been battling its own fires, 14 in total. 

According to Mike Williams, Public Information Officer for U.S. Forest Service, the two biggest fires are the Dobson-3 fire at 180 acres and Washington Creek fire at 200 acres. Both are 20 percent contained.

Crews have been brought in from across the Southeast to help Cherokee Indian Fire Department.

“A lot of local crews are taxed, and we are getting people on the ground, wherever there are structures, and making sure those structures aren’t burned and try to secure containment lines right now,” Williams said.

All 14 fires currently burning in Cherokee are covering a total of 450 acres.  In the past month, 35 total fires have burned on the Qualla Boundary.

Another major fire in the Nantahala National Forest is the Boteler fire that has been burning since Oct. 25. It has burned 4,767 acres and is only 10 percent contained.

Dick’s Creek in Sylva has been ongoing since Oct. 23, but it is 80 percent contained after burning 728 acres.

Smoky Mountain Times

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