KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Wind-driven wildfires continue to burn within the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The fires led to the immediate closure of several trails and campsites on Saturday.
The park service the Thomas Divide Complex Fire is about 40% contained. Monday’s wind speeds decreased enough to allow air support efforts to resume, after being shut down Tuesday due to excessive wind speeds. The fire has affected approximately 950 acres, with 39% inside park boundaries and 61% being Swain County private property. The park service said no permanent structures have been lost.
“The complex is comprised of two wildfires, the Stone Pile Fire and the Cooper Creek Fire, both of which ignited on 3/26/22 by downed power lines due to high winds and fallen trees,” the park service said in a post on social media.
On Sunday morning, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Fire and Rescue reported they were working 3 fires burning in the area. 150 acres off Galbraith Creek, 175 acres off Coopers Creek, and approximately 35 acres on Conleys Creek.
Park officials were on their way to fight a fire at Cooper Creek on Saturday afternoon when park rangers spotted the fire near Stone Pile Gap near the Thomas Divide area.
The Unified Command Center is coordinating the suppression efforts with about 70 personnel from the National Park Service, North Carolina Forest Service, Bryson City Fire Department, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Swain County Fire Department, and Jackson County Emergency Management, the park service said.
The park service said the following areas are closed until further notice:
- Backcountry campsites 46, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, and 60;
- Deep Creek and Thomas Divide trails from Deep Creek to Newfound Gap Road
- Pole Road Creek
- Indian Creek
- Stone Pile Gap
- Deep Creek Horse Bypass
- Juney Whank Falls
- Fork Ridge
- Sunkota Ridge
- Martins Gap
- Indian Creek Motor Nature
- Mingus Creek
- Newton Bald
- Kanati Fork and Loop trails
- Toms Branch Road near Deep Creek
Multiple agencies and organizations are responding to the fires. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is leading suppression efforts for the Cooper Creek fire. Bryson City Fire Department is leading suppression efforts for the Thomas Divide fire. NPS and county resources are also on the scene.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.