HENDERSON COUNTY, N.C. (WSPA) – Henderson County declared a state of emergency Sunday evening as local fire departments along with the state forest service continue to battle an intense brush fire that destroyed two houses.
“We are facing some challenging times while we hope for the best, we are planning for the worst now,” said Robert Griffin, chief of Edneyville Fire Department.
Saturday, the Poplar Drive Fire was estimated to be 175 acres. As of Sunday, officials said it grew to between 431 to 450 acres with 5% contained.
“We are seeing some stuff that is a little bit different with the humidity actually dropping at night instead of rising with the wind picking up just making it more and more challenging,” Griffin said. “The ground is so dry we can’t keep moisture on it, we did have one part of the fire last night we put over 20,000 gallons of water on, you can walk over it the next hour and dust was coming up.”
It’s a testament to how dry the forest is where the fire is burning.
“We’re looking at fire burning from the surface of the ground from what you’re seeing down to about 12 inches,” Griffin said. “You can drive by places now and it looks like everything’s burned out and it’s not burning. You can come back a few hours later and you can see stuff where its burnt from the ground up. From the bottom of the ground it created a void, dust falling in, it’s got air into it and now it’s reburning again.”
But what makes this fire even more difficult to fight is that many people call East Poplar Drive and the surrounding area home.
“We identified 75 structures that are inside the fire lines, so you might see it saying there are 75 structures threatened. At this point in time that is the way we are looking at it because we have 75 structures we need to protect,” Griffin said. “This makes it much more challenging, you hear the term ‘urban interface’ you have houses built with trees overhanging them, tight driveways, narrow roads to access and it poses a great challenge.”
As firefighters continue working around the clock, they have a message for anyone in the fire’s path who are debating whether to stay or go.
“If you feel you need to leave, you probably do need to leave,” Griffin said. “As they talk about with hurricanes at some point in time, you’ll come to the point where you will call 911 their might not be anyone there that would be able to come and help you.”
Fire officials said that there are 150 people on the ground working to put out the fire at any given time. Officials also expect that fire personnel in the area for at least the next 21 days.