Local News

Durham firefighters fight western NC wildfires

Posted December 2, 2016 10:36 p.m. EST
Updated December 2, 2016 10:44 p.m. EST

— Firefighters from across the Triangle, including a group from Durham, headed to the western North Carolina wildfires to lend a helping hand.

“(It was) a unique opportunity, you get to fight fire in the mountains,” said Durham firefighter Nicholas Holman.

Captain Paul Tyler and Nicholas Holman from Durham also volunteered to fight fire in the western part of the state.

“It was time to go to work,” Tyler said.

The men are among 8 Durham firefighters who were sent to take on the Party Rock blaze, a 71,000 acre fire at Chimney Rock State Park. They worked on the fire for around five days on 12-hour shifts.

They were joined by hundreds of other firefighters. Some came from as far as Arizona, Oregon and Alaska.

“We actually tagged a lot of hot spots in the trees that needed to be taken down by wildfire crews,” Tyler said.

They were also tasked with protecting homes as flames approached. The men said the terrain made for more “ups and downs” than they are used to back home in Durham. They used much of the equipment, including the same hoses, they use to fight much smaller fires in Durham.

“Nick and I were on an incline, what probably 45 degrees plus,” Tyler said. “It was so steep, we had to run a rope up as a safety line to ascend the mountain, pulling our hose lines up and we were working hot spots on the side of this mountain.”

“We got off of the truck and we go up. And we went up every bit of 4,500 feet,” Holman said.

Earlier this week, the Party Rock Fire was declared 100 percent contained. Tyler said the decision by state leaders to assemble such a large army to fight it, made the difference.

“They need to be given a lot of credit, I think, for requesting and deploying those assets as quick as they did,” he said.