Fire on the Mountain

Poor MountainImage via WikipediaPoor Mountain, that is–between Bent Mountain and Elliston (image view from the later location), and fifteen miles from here as the crow flies.

Ann smelled smoke while cutting the pasture over by the barn with the mower this morning. We didn’t know where the smoke was coming from when we set out in the car ostensibly to find the source, expecting possibly to see flames leaping at every bend of the road.

I was skeptical, however, but went along for the ride. By my nose, the smoke was barely detectable and I guessed rightly that it was a bigger fire than a simple brush fire, and not close.

Before we set out on our wild fire chase, I should have looked at Roanoke Times online where I would have found this article about the fire that started last night by lightning in some very steep terrain.

It now covers some ten acres, and according to the folks on the scene, it will continue to “burn for at least a week, maybe longer” depending, of course, on how much (or little) rain we get.

Silver lining to the cloud: the haze might make for nice lighting effects this weekend. I’m stepping out of my usual role as insect and fern photog to take a family portrait for some folks near the town of Floyd. My biggest concern is full-sun harsh lighting. Smoke high in the atmosphere adds a nice diffuser filter (sorry, lungs) hopefully reducing the squint factor.


UPDATE 3:35 pm: Just learned that this smoke is coming all the way from eastern Carolina!

“Air quality from Raleigh to Winston-Salem could be affected by smoke carried by winds blowing to the southwest, Bill Swartley, a spokesman for the State Forest Division, said in a statement.

Field observers said the fire had burned about 39,779 acres, or about 62 square miles, Swartley said. The figure was a revision of an earlier, slightly larger estimate Wednesday.

Smoke was reducing visibility on roads around Goldsboro, Nashville, Rocky Mount, Smithfield and Wilson to less than 2 miles, the National Weather Service office in Raleigh said. Conditions were expected to worsen overnight because of lighter winds, forecasters said….

Separately, a fire in the Virginia portion of the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge was creeping toward North Carolina. Refuge manager Chris Lowie told The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, Va., that a contractor’s timbering equipment caught fire Monday afternoon. The fire began at about 30 acres and had grown to about 500 acres, he said.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. The smoke in Raleigh is horrible. I smelled it faintly last night, and this morning everything is hazy, smoky and smells bad! It has given us a headache that meds don’t touch, and I am so glad I am home now and don’t have to go out again until tomorrow.

  2. The smoke is bad in Danville too. Stings your eyes. I wonder why it’s such a nasty smell?
    Like you, Fred, when I first went outside this morning I thought something in the neighborhood must be burning.