WESLEY YOUNG Winston-Salem Diary
LOWGAP — A wildfire that started Saturday on Fulcher Mountain and has spread to burn nearly 200 acres is now under control, bringing relief to the handful of people who call this remote community home.
The North Carolina Forest Service and firefighters plan to stay on the scene in hopes that the expected rain will speed up their task.
People in the community also stepped up to help. Some prepared food to take to firefighters, and a man and his son used material from their construction company to cut a fire line over a mile long through the woods to protect the log cabin from a neighbor.
Resident Keith Bobbitt said it was exactly that kind of community.
“It’s a tight neighborhood,” he said. “When they need to pull themselves together, they pull themselves together.”
Forest Service officials say the fire started on the west side of Fulcher Mountain, which runs between NC 89 and Hidden Valley Road a few miles southeast of Lowgap, an unincorporated community in the county. of Surry. Someone was apparently burning some debris, and the fire got out of control and spread into nearby woods.
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Fighting the fire was made more difficult by the rough, wooded terrain around the mountain.
Forest Service officials said about 100 people, including volunteer firefighters, worked to contain the blaze — and their efforts were successful. No homes or other structures and, most importantly, no lives were lost.
Tony Cave has his home and family construction business on the east side of Fulcher Mountain. Bobbitt, who lives in Clemmons, has a cabin he uses on the southwest side of the mountain. Bobbitt was at the cabin when the fire broke out.
When Cave learned of the fire on Saturday, he told his son Ethan that “Keith Bobbitt’s house is in danger”, and the two men got to work. They put their gear in the woods around 7 p.m. Ethan used a bigger piece of equipment called a crawler loader up front with his dad clearing the way behind with the smaller skid steer loader he was driving.
“Years ago there was a path through there that you would have considered a logging road,” Tony said. “We went through and opened wide enough that the fire didn’t jump out.”
Bobbitt said he heard the caves coming, then saw their lights shining eerily through the trees, like a scene from a sci-fi movie, as they approached.
“Ethan was on the loader chopping down whole trees and moving them around,” Bobbitt said. “His father had a compact loader behind him to clean up. There wasn’t a leaf on the ground when they left.
It was late Saturday night. The Caves cut a circle around Bobbitt’s cabin to create a buffer. Bobbitt and his friends spent a frantic day Sunday cleaning up anything that could burn.
Sunday night, state rangers came in and started burning his back behind his cabin.
“We could see the (main) fire coming our way,” Bobbitt said. “It was less than 100 feet from my cabin and 35 to 40 feet from my tractor shed.”
Around 2 a.m. Monday, the two fires met and merged and died out.
On Monday afternoon, it appeared most of the fire was out, although smoke was still visible.
Bobbitt and Tony Cave are full of praise for the firefighters and Forest Service workers who risked their lives. Bobbitt said a fire crew stood near every home in danger.
“These guys were phenomenal,” Bobbitt said. “It may not have been a 10,000 acre fire out west, but when it’s your home in peril, it’s great to see that truck coming through the woods.”
Bobbitt saw firefighters using the line the Caves cut.
“I said, ‘Tony, you saved me,'” Bobbitt recalled. “The line of fire he cut is about 75 feet behind my cabin. Behind me, heading south, there are still several hundred acres of woods until you come to open fields. And on my side, there were two other houses. They were never in danger because we stopped it there.
Bobbitt said he wasn’t the kind of guy to try to put out a fire. He was ready to pull away when flames began to burn his way.
“Confidence is one thing, but you can’t beat Mother Nature,” he said. “I made a good effort with a lot of friends.”
Bobbitt noted that Cave has a nice big barn that has become a gathering place for people fighting the fire, with food inside.
Cave played down his role, saying he didn’t want to take anything away from the firefighters who worked so hard.
“Don’t praise them,” he said. “They worked tirelessly. The firefighters have their program. They were at the other end of the mountain. We have created a fire zone at the rear. Everyone was involved. People came and brought food. We have a good community.
“It’s really humbling to realize how many people worry in times of crisis. We are very lucky to live where we live in this country.