The autumnal fragrance of a wood burning fire is a comforting and cozy thing when it is contained in a fireplace. But, when I was in the kitchen yesterday and smelled burning wood, it evoked fear. Stepping out to the veranda, this was the view.
That is smoke, not fog, so thick that the entire western state area is under the highest air quality alert there is for poor air. Compare the picture to the header and you can see that the distant range is completely obscured. Scanning the mountain around our home, I was relieved to find that our property was not the source. Then I realized it had to be the wildfires. Western North Carolina is under siege, battling 14 wildfires covering over 33,000 acres of our beautiful forests and mountain woodlands. There are now mandatory evacuations in Buncombe county north of us, thankfully that area is at least 40 miles north, but a closer fire in the county east of us by about 25 miles is having voluntary evacuations near Bat Cave. It looks the same this morning, thick smoke layer obscuring the sun, turning the sky grey.
It has been over two months since we had significant rainfall, and none is forecast in the next week. Hurricane Matthew in early October pounded the coastal region, but western NC didn’t see rain from it. We are now in severe drought. Those dry leaves falling from the trees onto dry ground create more than just a dull color season, it is creating disastrous burning conditions when carelessness starts a fire. A stray ember from a campfire or a carelessly thrown cigarette from a moving car can mean tremendous loss. We can only hope for relief from the sky. There might be a spotty shower here and there next weekend, but you know how unreliable a seven-day out forecast can be. So, we keep watch, try to reduce our water usage (the groundwater is down too and we have a well), and pray for rain. Soon.
Keep the firefighters in your thoughts too. They have come from nearby states bringing help and equipment to aid our own responder’s efforts. Most of the fires are on national park or state park land, and I hope for safety for all the people in harm’s way. I hope for the safety of anyone with a home near these fires. And I am praying for rain.