Chimney Rock State Park’s visitor center, and the ancient granite monolith it is named for, reopened Friday as firefighters accelerated their mop-up operation against the remains of a wildfire.
Authorities said Friday that the Party Rock fire, which started Nov. 5, closing the state park and causing the weeklong evacuation of Chimney Rock village, was declared 70 percent contained. Sprites of flames are still popping up in the 7,100 acres consumed by the blaze and fire managers are continuing to send a reconnaissance plane overhead at night with infrared cameras to identify hotspots.
At its height, more than 900 firefighters were sent to battle the blaze around Lake Lure; two-thirds of them have now been released.
Rain is forecast for next week, possibly as early as Tuesday, though other predictions have fallen through in recent weeks. It has been more than 50 days since Western North Carolina got any appreciable rainfall.
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Link Smith, who is commanding the force managing the fire, said crews are also mitigating any possible erosion possibilities from the bulldozer lines and containment barriers scratched from the forest to halt the fire last week.
“Some people almost lost their homes during this fire,” said Smith, “and we owe it to them to ensure they’re not threatened again.”
While visitors can go to the top of Chimney Rock, the rest of the state park is closed indefinitely. At Lake Lure, the Welcome Center reopened Friday.
A brush fire near Blowing Rock that consumed nearly 1,000 acres this week was considered largely contained Friday. Its cause, along with the Party Rock Fire, is still under investigation.