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Pilot Mountain wildfire burns over 240 acres

A wildfire the size of 180 football fields is spreading across Pilot Mountain.

PILOT MOUNTAIN, N.C. — Fire crews continue their fight against a massive fire on Pilot Mountain Monday morning. 

The wildfire has been burning since Saturday. As of Monday morning, 240 acres were burning - the size of more than 180 football fields. 

Pilot Mountain State Park will likely be closed all week due to the fire, park officials said. 

Officials are asking people to stay away from the area and to not use drones over the park in an attempt to photograph as they could interfere with fire-fighting aircrafts.

North Carolina Forest Service Ranger Jimmy Holt said crews are being briefed each time they head up the mountain.

"Direct containment is really not an option in the steep terrain," Holt said Sunday. "We have solid dozer line around the base of the mountain. At some point, when conditions are right with the resources available, we will conduct a firing operation off the dozer lines."

Holt said crews got to the scene to start the firefight around 5 p.m. Saturday.

“We'll be widening and improving dozer lines at the base of the mountain for a day or two,” Holt said Sunday afternoon. “We could expect the fire to continue for a couple of days. We’ll be here until it’s done, however long it takes.”

Crews believe the fire grew to about 60 acres sometime Saturday evening, according to Holt. Crews worked on the fire throughout the night. Holt said about 10 people worked to contain it at a time.

"Very dangerous being up there on that kind of terrain in those kinds of conditions," he said.

There are buildings in the area of the park. Holt said Surry County fire crews were providing protection in the park Saturday night.

Firefighters were pulled off the mountain late Sunday evening because of the conditions.

Dozens of fire-fighting officials are coming in to help, including North Carolina Forest Service personnel and North Carolina Parks crews. Planes are also being used to dump water over the fire. 

Holt said the conditions on the mountain aren't helping firefighters tame the flames. 

"What we do have in our favor is the fact that North Carolina Forest System has been using prescribed fire on Pilot Mountain for quite a few years going back to the last wildfire we had back in 2012," he said. 

Holt said no buildings have been damaged and no injuries have been reported. 

He said they don't know yet how the fire started, but once the fire is under control, law enforcement will investigate what caused it.

Holt said they believe the fire was discovered on Grindstone Trail, now referring to it as 'The Grindstone Fire.'

Firefighter Chris Wall said the department received a call about the fire around 5:15 p.m. Saturday.

He said two departments were dispatched to the area of Three Bear Gully, where they made access to the fire on foot.

"The fire is spreading quick because of the wind," Wall said. 

Weather conditions and nightfall had crews working in defensive mode, but just before 11 p.m.

Wall said the fire was controlled and volunteer services were pulled off the mountain for safety reasons.

Pilot Mountain’s mayor released a statement regarding the fire Sunday evening.

“We are still closely monitoring the fire at Pilot Mountain State Park,” Mayor Evan Cockerham said.

Cockerham said multiple agencies are now involved including the NC Forestry Service.

“Of course, it was our local firefighters at Pilot Knob Vol. Fire Department and surrounding departments that were on site and first to respond last night,” he said. “Despite their heroic efforts, strong winds and dry fuels have now spread the fire over a few hundred acres.”

Cockerham has placed a ban on outdoor burning in Surry and surrounding counties.

“There is a little chance of rain in our ten-day forecast,” he said.

Cockerham said firefighters could use the Pilot Mountain community’s help with donations of bottled water, snacks, Gatorade and other items to stay hydrated.

He said people can drop the items off at the Pilot Knob Volunteer Fire Department on Key Street.

Wall said no injuries were reported and no structures are damaged. A campground near the fire was evacuated, but Wall said none of the campers' property was damaged.

The N.C. Forest Service will remain on the scene of the fire through the night, according to Wall.

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