As of Sunday morning, the Whipping Creek Road fire was reported at 13,773 acres in size and 48 percent contained.
Several storms dropped more than an inch of rain over the fire over the weekend and contributed to subdued fire behavior, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A period of unsettled weather forecast for the coming week represents a good window of opportunity for firefighters to make further progress on containing the fire.
To that end, fire managers have contracted two CL-415 “Super Scoopers” to support fire suppression. The Minnesota- based air ships will started working on the northeastern fire perimeter Sunday morning and will continue with water drops through early Sunday evening.
The CL-415s will scoop water from the Alligator River and deliver it to the fire every six minutes. Some of the 2,200-gallon water drops delivered on each run will occur adjacent to U.S. 264.
The highway, which had been closed to traffic most of last week, opened from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Saturday.
However, because to the presence of the aircraft and support firefighters working near the highway, there is a closure today, which started at 9 a.m. and will end in the early evening. The highway was opened 6 a.m. for those travelers wanting to avoid detouring through Columbia, and will reopen around dusk after air tanker runs have ceased. Law enforcement will assist with the highway closure.
The highway’s travel status can be monitored on NCDOT’s website at http://tims.ncdot.gov/tims/RegionSummary.aspx?re=8.
A Saturday evening flight of the fire perimeter using infrared camera technology provided increased accuracy of the fire size and location and areas requiring attention due to residual heat. Firefighters continue to construct and improve containment lines to support burnout operations and monitor the fire perimeter for flare-ups.
The incident now has 143 firefighters and fire managers assigned to the fire, primarily from the North Carolina Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The estimated cost of suppression efforts to date is $505,242.00.