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Visitors driving the Blue Ridge Parkway about 30 miles southwest of Asheville can expect to smell smoke and see flames shooting from the summit of Cold Mountain. [Angela Wilhelm/Asheville Citizen Times]

Almost three years to the date of the 2016 Gatlinburg fires, calls flooded Western North Carolina’s emergency services as Cold Mountain began to burn.

The cause of the fires remains unknown.

Located just about 2 hours from Knoxville, Cold Mountain sits at 6,030 feet in Haywood County, North Carolina and is mostly owned by the U.S. Forest Service.

“The U.S. Forest service has closed the entire 18,000-acre Shining Rock Wilderness Area, including all 53 miles of its trails to the public while a wildfire burns on the iconic Cold Mountain,” Asheville Citizen-Times said.

The mountain is in a rural part of the state, only hosting a few private homes and allowing only a few roads to get up and down the mountain.

This has made it difficult for firefighters to get to the mountain to control the fire, according to Bruce MacDonald, a public information officer with the National Forests in North Carolina.

“The Cold Mountain summit … is in an extremely remote, rugged area of the wilderness, which has no roads, making it impossible to get vehicles on the scene,” MacDonald said.

While Gatlinburg was affected, western North Carolina also experienced historic wildfires in November 2016, when an estimated 50,000 acres of were affected in Pisgah National Forest, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times.

On Nov. 21, 2019 though, the first calls came in reporting fires on Cold Mountain.

“[MacDonald] said the 50-acre fire burning on the Cold Mountain summit was called in about 3 a.m. Nov. 21, but had grown to 106 acres as of 5 p.m.,” the Asheville Citizen-Times said.

The fires continued to rage through Saturday morning only to be met by a rainy day; something firefighters can be thankful for this year.

After suffering a dry fall season, WLOS News-13 reported, “Around 4 p.m. Sunday, authorities said the Cold Mountain Fire continued to burn despite two inches of rainfall throughout the area on Saturday.”

Then, around 7 p.m. on Sunday Nov. 24, WLOS News-13 reported the fire “is at 15% containment and 200 acres in size.”

In its fourth day of burning, the weekend rain did little to subdue the fire, and the Thanksgiving holiday is looking dry. Wednesday the 27th could bring some rain to Haywood County.

WLOS News-13 also said that firefighters will remain on-site to monitor conditions and protect structures in nearby communities. 

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