By Derek McKissock
News Editor 

Commissioners Hear Overview Of Wildfire Response – Brevard NC


February 20, 2017

During their recent meeting, Transylvania County commissioners heard an overview of last year’s wildfires and the local response.

The local response was mainly focused on the wildfire that originated Nov. 9 on Pinnacle Mountain, just off the Foothills Trail in Table Rock State Park, S.C.

Keith Owen, chief of Connestee Fire Rescue, and Frank “Buster” Rogers, the county ranger with the N.C. Forest Service, prevented the commissioners the overview.

Owen highlighted the involvement of all of the county’s various emergency service personnel and the cooperation among the entities, the N.C. Forest Service and others, including the Sheriff’s Office and Highway Patrol.

U.S. Forest Service Pisgah District personnel also aided with help.

“We worked as one,” Owen said.

Owen also gave special recognition to the members of the public who provided food and other items to the firefighters during that time.

Rogers equally praised the combined efforts and teamwork.

Others who helped out included DuPont State Recreational Forest personnel, prison inmates, and crews from Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon and other states.

In his presentation, Rogers noted that the fire danger, terrain, weather and extremely dry fuels made suppression efforts very challenging.

On Nov. 23, the fire reached the North Carolina border near the Head of Laurel in the area of Dolly Masters Road in the East Fork Community.

The fire was eventually contained on Dec. 4, burning 10,560 acres. Of the amount, about 200 acres burned within North Carolina.

Those who responded locally constructed more than 7 miles of fire lines in the county, while also assisting the Forest Service with burnout operation, preparing for possible emergency evacuation and standing by for medical needs and traffic control.

The cost of the response to the county was roughly $39,000.

The county is looking at trying to get some funds to compensate for the expenditures.

In other action at the meeting:

•Commissioners asked staff to spend up to 90 days looking at possible uses for property on Ross Road that used to house the old Animal Shelter before considering selling the land.

The adjacent property owners, Charles and Kelli McKinney, want to buy the 1.53 acres for $10,000.

The 2016 valuation for the property is $45,000

Staff has no current plans for the property. A dog park has been suggested.

If the county accepted the McKinney’s bid, there would still be a certain amount of time for someone else to make an upset bid.

Commissioner Larry Chapman said the county government has limited property and wanted to know first if the county could use it instead of selling it. There is a well and a septic tank on the property. The property has two frontages.

•Commissioners briefly addressed the various boards and committees that each of them is a member of.

No changes were made. Chapman serves on the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council and the N.C. Association of County Commissioners, where he is a district director and also is a legislative goals voting delegate for the association.

Commission Jason Chappell serves as an alternate member on the Land-Of-Sky Regional Council, the Work First Planning Committee, the Personnel Board, the Rural Planning Organization and the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Commissioner Mike Hawkins serves on the Land-of-Sky Regional Council, the Gorges State Park Advisory Committee, the Tourism Development Authority and the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, Board of Directors.

Commissioner Page Lemel serves on the DuPont State Recreational Forest Advisory Committee, the Joint Parks and Recreation Strategic Planning Task Force, the Vaya Health County Commissioner Advisory Council, the Early Childhood Initiative Task Force, the Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Task Force, the REACH (Homeless Teens) Task Force and the Extension Advisory Council.

Commissioner Kelvin Phillips serves on the Board of Health.

•Commissioners appointed Carolyn Ashworth, James Owen and James Newby to the county’s Parks and Recreation Commission.

•Commissioners approved modifying the Hemlock Cost Share Program. Previously, the program’s guidelines allowed the $50 landowner deposit to be refunded if the landowner decides not to pursue treatment after an initial assessment is done.

Commissioners approved staff’s recommendation, which said the previous guidelines placed undue costs on the county, to make the deposit non-refundable except when the initial application is found not to meet the qualifying criteria.


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