Neighbors concerned over 2,300-acre prescribed burn near homes

by: Dave Faherty Updated:

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MORGANTON, N.C. - Thousands of acres are burning near Morganton and homeowners are keeping a close eye on the flames.
 
The flames were so intense, Channel 9 reporter Dave Faherty had to back away at one point because we were nearly overcome by smoke. 
    
Channel 9 followed a U.S. Forest Service crew as they worked their way down a steep hillside setting the woods on fire about 75 yards from a home.  The wind took the smoke and flames up the mountainside, blackening an area so hundreds of acres can be safely burned. 
 
The smoke is not what homeowners nearby want to see in an area known for its beauty. 
 
"It makes me nervous.  The smoke it gets bad around here. The air quality...the pollen is bad enough and now you're going to have smoke to be breathing,” said Patsy Parks.
           
The Forest Service said it sets fires like this to prevent bigger wild fires from burning out of control in places like the Linville Gorge.  By mid-afternoon the U.S. Forest Service used a helicopter to shoot incendiary devices into the woods to start fires.
 
They said the prescribed burns improve future conditions for native plants and wildlife.    It is something Ken Tolin has seen firsthand while hiking the Gorge.
 
"I think it is definitely needed.   I've seen the devastation of an uncontrolled burn where it gets hot and humid and really burns the stuff to the ground,” Tolin said.
          
With this right out their back doors, several neighbors said they won't let their guard down until the fire is out. 
 
"I'm concerned about them but they do an excellent job at keeping them under control,” said neighbor Lois Pennell.
 
They were supposed to do the burn over two days but because of the rain coming Friday the plan now is to burn the entire 2,300 acres Thursday.