Richard Thornton | May 9, 2017 | 23
Western North Carolina Mountains being devastated by forest fires set by domestic terrorists
Domestic terrorists are setting so many fires in the North Carolina Mountains that US Forest Service firefighter crews from throughout the United States are overwhelmed. The fires are located in the exact same region, where anti-government groups hid out Olympic Games terrorist, Eric Rudolph between 1996 and 2003. Firefighter crews have arrived from as far away as Alaska. Firefighters on the ground are in extreme danger because of the steep slopes and drought conditions.
The image above was made on top of Brasstown Bald Mountain, Georgia around 4:30 PM . . . looking to the north 18 miles away at a mountain range due north of Lake Chatuge in Cherokee County, NC. On the north side of this mountain range is the new Cherokee Valley Casino. Note that there are at least three separate fires in this photo . . . each about a mile apart.
Murphy, NC (Nov. 6, 2016) – What began yesterday in the Southern Appalachians as yet another perfect fall day, with the tree foliage color past their peak and the clear skies deep blue. The landscape turned into the visage of hell by late afternoon. Since October 28, the US Forest Service, North Carolina State Forest Service, Tennessee State Forest Service and local fire-fighting departments have been in a battle with an increasing number of intentionally set fires in the rugged terrain of the Nantahala, Cherokee and Pisgah National Forests. Western North Carolinians awoke Saturday morning to a new chain of forest fires that stretched 60 miles from Cokers Creek, TN to Sylva,NC.
At some locations, the fires were less than a mile apart as the arsonists clearly were starting fires on the steep slopes that could not be accessed by land vehicles. There are too many fires being set simultaneously to be the work of a single deranged individual. Most of the fires are being started on federally or state owned lands, which are remote from communities and farms. Because there are so many fires, the danger is increasing that they will spread to lower elevations, where there are farms, homes, vacation cabins and businesses. The scale of the arson can only be described as domestic terrorism.
It does not seem to be a coincidence that the fires are occurring in the exact same region, where anti-government cells hid Olympic Games bomber, Eric Rudolph, from 1996 to 2003. North Carolina mountain families have always claimed that the financiers of the concealment efforts were wealthy Republicans in the Knoxville, TN area, who wanted to embarrass the Clinton Administration. Long time North Carolina residents also claim that right wing extremists within other law enforcement agencies of the federal bureaucracy directly protected Rudolph and these anti-government cells from a massive FBI manhunt. Rudolph grew up in Florida and most of his known political extremist associates had moved to North Carolina from other states – mostly Tennessee and Florida.
However, the fact is that Rudolph was eventually captured in Downtown Murphy, NC – not Tennessee or Georgia, where he was also occasionally spotted. In 1999, Rudolph lived near Downtown Rome, GA and was often seen by his neighbors, riding his yellow bicycle each day with a black box connected by a cable to something under his coat. The local FBI and Georgia Bureau of Investigation office ignored repeated reports by Rome residents of seeing Rudolph. Eventually, Rome’s police department went after Rudolph, but he escaped through the woods on a motor bike. He next was seen camping out near Nashville, TN, but eventually Tennessee law enforcement drove Rudolph back into the protection of the North Carolina Mountains.
The $20+ million hunt for Rudolph in Western North Carolina was the most expensive operation ever carried out by the FBI. Its sheer number of agents and helicopters involved caused a permanent hatred of the federal government by many mountain residents. FBI agents were accused of violating their Constitutional rights. However, the agents had no choice, but to monitor and search thousands of houses and cabins in the rugged mountainous region.
Throughout much of Nov. 5, the individual forest fires resembled a chain of massive volcanoes as plumes of smoke rose high into the blue skies. However, as air temperatures began to cool after around 3 PM the smoke clouds began to drift horizontally and then by sunset, downward into the populated valleys. The smoke was drifting in a general southeastward direction so by around 6 PM, cities such as Murphy, Andrews, Sylva and Franklin in North Carolina, plus Hiawassee and Clayton in Northeast Georgia were choked by a dense cloud of acrid smoke. The polluted air is difficult to breath in these communities and causing a severe health hazard. Eyes are irritated and driving in dangerous in low spots where the smoke has settled most densely.
By mid-day on November 6, the smoke from the North Carolina fires had covered and filled the air of most of North Georgia. The blanket of toxic air now covers most of the Northern Atlanta Metro Area. This has created a potentially catastrophic situation for the much drier Georgia Mountains, because Georgia officials can no longer spot any fires that might be started in their mountains and uplands.
On November 4, 2016 the US Forest Service flew in “Smoke Jumper” teams from the Northwestern United States and Alaska. These firefighters have extensive experience in fighting forest fires on steep terrain. Unfortunately, parachuting into the dense hardwood forests and rocky slopes of the North Carolina mountains is virtual suicide. These specially trained firefighter teams must hike up to the slopes, which will be difficult to escape if the wind starts blowing. These treks can take hours. The newly set fires on Nov. 5, were able to cover vast areas before any firefighters could reach them .
Then there is the problem of the sheer number of fires. There are too many fires burning for federal and state agencies to adequately attack them. This problem is growing by the day.
Right now, the air is virtually still, but high winds are common during November in the Appalachians. The rugged terrain and thermal drafts of the Appalachians can cause prevailing winds to shift in unpredictable directions. A downward draft could quickly trap a firefighting team. This is indeed domestic terrorism aimed at the property and personnel of the United States.
The Georgia Mountains are even dryer than those in North Carolina, but so far, the few fires set by arsonists or careless campers have been extinguished without serious damage being done. Western North Carolina forests have always had an inordinate number of intentionally set forest fires. It seems to be some sort of perverted local tradition. However, never before have the region’s forests been so vulnerable or the major fires so numerous.
Unrelenting drought conditions
In the eastern edge of Tennessee and Western North Carolina, the worse drought since 1985 is continuing and becoming more severe. In the Georgia Mountains to the south, it is the worst drought in recorded history. Between February 11, 1985 and June 19, 1985, many areas of Western North Carolina experienced no measurable precipitation. This drought wiped out the region’s dairy industry, but foliage did not appear on the trees until late June.
In 2016, an unusually hot, dry summer for the Appalachians has been followed by three months of little or no rainfall. The leaves are dropping on a very dry forest floor. There are many dead limbs mixed in with the old dead leaves. The ultra-dry condition of so much flammable material is akin to dropping a match in a fireworks plant.
There is no rain forecast for Western North Carolina by the National Weather Service until November 15. Fortunately, no high winds are in the 10 day forecast. Nevertheless, this could well be a November that the people of the Southern Appalachians might never forget.
Note: The author of this article lived in the Asheville, NC area between 1977 and 1987. He happened to be cross-country skiing with his girlfriend in the North Carolina Mountains in 1997, on the first day when the FBI search began. He was questioned by FBI agents, also on ski’s, but found them polite and professional. Later, in 2010, while he was living in a tent near Murphy, NC as part of a year long study of the Appalachian’s past, North Carolina residents repeatedly told him their opinions about the period when Eric Rudolph was hiding out. In March and April of 2010, he actually lived in one of the cabins, where Rudolph hid out . . . near Fontana Lake in Graham County, NC .
© Apalache Foundation News Service
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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history.Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.
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