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Originally published: 2012-11-29 12:47:22
Last modified: 2012-11-29 12:49:27

Patterson fire sends smoke toward Watauga

Firefighters are continuing to fight a woods fire in the Patterson area south of Watauga County as the N.C. Forest Service urges residents to avoid burning.

The fire broke out at Fork Mountain around midday Monday and had grown to about 130 acres as of midday Thursday, said Richard Cockerham, situation leader for the Patterson Fire Department.

Bulldozers were used to create containment lines around a roughly 175-acre parcel, which Cockerham said he expected the fire to reach by Friday.

“If all goes well, we’ll be wrapping things up by the weekend,” he said.

Steep mountain terrain, rock cliffs and a large, continuous acreage of forest to the north have made the attack more difficult, Cockerham said. Abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions in the area are playing a role, and Cockerham said the rain that fell Tuesday helped only slightly.

The fire, located east of U.S. 321 and about three miles north of N.C. 268, sent smoke into Lenoir on Wednesday evening, but the smoke headed more toward Blowing Rock on Thursday, he said.

The Blowing Rock and Boone Fire Departments are among those involved in the efforts, Cockerham said.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Meanwhile, the N.C. Forest Service is urging residents to avoid burning yard waste and debris until the state gets significant rain.

Nearly 600 wildfires have occurred across the state in November, according to Forest Service data, and debris burning is the No. 1 cause of wildfires in the state.

Those who determine that burning debris is a necessity should contact the county forest ranger, Stuart Scott, who can offer technical advice and explain the best options to maximize safety to people, property and the forest.

The Forest Service urges people who choose to burn debris to adhere to these tips:

— Get a burning permit, which can be obtained at any N.C. Forest Service office or authorized permitting agent or online at

— 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.

— Check the weather. Don’t burn on dry, windy days.

— Some yard debris, such as leaves and grass, may be more valuable if composted.

— Burn natural vegetation only. 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.

— Be prepared. Have a shovel or hoe to clear a perimeter around the burn area.

— For fire control, 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 debris burning.

— Stay with the fire until it is completely out.

— Never dump hot ashes or coals into a wooded area. Instead, douse burning charcoal or campfires thoroughly with water; stir the coals and soak them again. Be sure they are extinguished.

— If you are burning agriculture residue or forestland litter, follow the rules above, but also plow a fire line around the area to be burned. Large fields should be separated into small plots for burning one at a time. Contact your county ranger before burning.

For more information about preventing wildfires and property loss, log onto and click on “Fire Control and Prevention.”