Thursday, November 24, 2016


It's been dry.

Very dry.

Tinder dry.

On the 10th of November, I took a short ride up SC-135 and SC-8 from Easley, SC toward the north.

This is the way I started out:

As I approach the little crossroads of Pumpkintown (Point B on the map), I notice that there is a good deal of haze in the distance.

I hadn't realized that the fire on Pinnacle Mountain had grown so much, and was generating so much smoke.  The further I go, the worse it is.  When I get to the intersection of SC-11, the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Highway, I turn left and ride to US-178, and then a few hundred yards south to SC-288, Table Rock Road.  I turn right into the cemetery across the street from Holly Springs Baptist Church (Point D on the map, and note that Pinnacle Mountain is marked on the map).

This is what I see from the cemetery:

Click on photo for a larger view
Pinnacle Mountain is to the right.  It is the highest point entirely within South Carolina and can be reached on foot from table Rock State Park a few miles east of here. 

The fire started from a campfire on November 9, and has spread significantly.  As of November 21st, the fire is only 35% contained and now encompasses 5,100 acres.

More than 120 brave personnel are working 12+ hour shifts to put out the fire by hand, using bulldozers, off-road tankers, and chainsaws.  The fire is now the largest fire ever in Pickens County since the S.C. Forestry Commission started keeping records 90 years ago.

I am startled by a National Guard helicopter overhead carrying a red water bucket.  They are making repeated trips to Lake Olenoy at Table Rock State Park Visitor center on SC-11. I go back there by way of West Gate Road that also leads to an entrance of Table Rock State Park. 

The helicopter has stopped at the Table Rock Wesleyan Camp where the men are sleeping and getting their meals.

Notice the man sitting in the copter doorway.

I circle back to Lake Olenoy and catch the helicopter picking up water from the lake, then flying off to the fire.

I decide to see if I can view the fire from a different angle and head toward Sassafras Mountain, the highest point in South Carolina, though the mountain shares its base with both North and South Carolina.  Sassafras is also shown on the map above. 

Once I get there, I walk to the overlook.  I can see the smoke, but not the source of it. 

Here is a panorama from the overlook near the top of the mountain:

Click on photo for a larger view
And here is a 360-degree panorama from the top of the mountain.  The smoke from the fire it at the far left.  

Click on photo for a larger view
I do get to see some very nice leaf coloration on the way to Sassafras and back on US-178 north of SC-11.

I head back toward home on US-178, pass though the town of Pickens, do some practice of low speed maneuvers in my neighborhood, then put the bike away for the next time. 

Except for the fire, the day is beautiful.  It has been good to be out and about. I traveled only 88 miles, but it was worth it. 

I pray God's protection for the firefighters.


Update on Thanksgiving Day. 

I went up north for a look at the progress the firefighters had made.  I went up SC-135, and SC-8, then headed over to Aunt Sues Country Corner, a tourist stop the firefighters were using as a command base.  (By the way Aunt Sue's has great ice cream when they are open.) 

There was nobody there.  I did stop and take a look at the map of the fire's progression and the map showing the various methods they had used to contain it.  These are on the signboard at the far left of the photograph below. 

Here is a closeup of the fire's progression by day:

Notice the tremendous progression of the fire on November 17, the black.  It consumed 1457 acres on that day.  The total burn had progressed to 6022 acres by November 21.  That's quite a bit more than the 5,100 acres I stated in my previous post above. 

The circled red X within the blue circle and green area toward the left of the map above is the origin of the fire -- a campfire.  It is a fearsome thing, fire, in such a dry land.

Here is a news release from November 22, that explains the then-current situation.

And here is a detailed map of the various efforts to stop it.

The orange dots are hot spots.  The black line represents containment.  The orange line is as yet uncontained. 

I ran across the landing field for the various helicopters on Table Rock Road at the Palmetto Cove Campground

There are both Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters, plus a small copter for observation.

I have never been able to see any of the fire directly because they keep the public far enough away so we don't interfere with their efforts to contain the fire.

It was another good day to be out riding.  We have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving Day.  It is unfortunate that there is such an extensive fire going on. 


Final Update. 

FIRE SIZE: 10,623 acres, as of Dec. 5, 2016, when it was contained.

ESTIMATED COSTS: $4.8 million

FIRE BACKGROUND: Human-caused / Nov. 9, 2016 / Table Rock State Park, 10.5 miles north of Pickens, S.C.


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