By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
What a difference a day makes. Skies over Cherokee that were filled with smoke and ash on Monday, April 18 were much clearer on Tuesday, April 19 as a wildfire was contained. Principal Chief Patrick Lambert reported on Tuesday afternoon that the fire, which started on Conseen Drive off of Johnson Arch Road in the Yellowhill Community on the afternoon of Sunday, April 17, was 100 percent contained.
“BIA has a second hotshot crew coming that will ‘mop-up’ the remaining hot spots and work to stabilize the charred areas so that slides are prevented or kept to a minimum,” Chief Lambert said in a statement. “Acquoni Road, from the bridge to the traffic circle, will remain closed for the next several days due to the potential falling timber and rocks. A tree fell across Acquoni and damaged the walk bridge close to the (Oconaluftee) Island pull-off. Fortunately, there weren’t any injuries or loss of homes or businesses.”
Several agencies have been involved in fighting the fire including the BIA Forestry Division, Cherokee Fire Department, U.S. Forest Service, and the National Park Service.
Anthony Sequoyah, EBCI Secretary of Public Safety, said the most active area for this fire was an area between the hills above downtown Cherokee and Yellowhill/Peavine Roads. One reason is the amount of dead trees due to a beetle infestation several years ago. “Many trees were affected and are dried out or had fallen so that’s where a lot of the hot spots are occurring.”
He said an exact cause of the fire is not known at this time, but an investigator has been on-site and will be issuing a report soon.
Sequoyah said the terrain of the area was a challenge in containing this fire. “That area in the middle of town and through Acquoni Road is straight up, rock cliffs. It’s hard to do anything with that other than just let it burn.”
Helicopters were employed to fight the fire due to the terrain issues. “They got the biggest bulk of it knocked out, and they kept it from going over on the Stillwell Branch side, and that was a big plus there,” Sequoyah noted.
Chief Lambert praised the efforts of everyone involved in fighting the fire, “Work will continue until the fire is completely extinguished. Thank you to all of the brave firefighters and emergency personnel.”