Party Rock Fire - November 2016

Massive Mutual Aid to Western North Carolina

Photos by Orange Rural FD and Salisbury FD (second from left)

Last updated Monday, November 28


  • Introduction
  • Maps
  • Photos
  • Official Information
  • Detailed Overview
  • List of Fire Departments and More
  • Bits 'n' Pieces
  • Acknowledgements


On Friday, November 11, 2016, fire departments around North Carolina were requested to help fight a wildfire in the western part of the state. A blaze had started six days earlier at Chimney Rock State Park. It had grown to over 2,000 acres in size, and was threatening hundreds of structures in nearby communities. The local fire departments of Buncombe, Henderson, and Rutherford counties were already on scene, but more help was needed.

By the end of the weekend, dozens of engines and brush trucks and their crews had arrived at the command post in Lake Lure. The firefighters were told to plan for seven-day deployments. They would provide protection for the structures and assist the forestry crews. Wildland resources were also arriving from across the country, with hand crews and Type 6 engines coming from as far away as Alaska, Florida, and Texas.

The Party Rock Fire continued to grow that week, with its peak size of 7,000 acres by Monday, November 21. By that date, the fire was determined as sufficient contained to begin demobilizing most of the mutual aid structural crews. Over 170 fire departments from around the state had assisted.

This page provides a historical perspective of the incident.



Photos by Mike Legeros


More Links

Official Information

Public information about the Party Rock Fire was posted on this InciWeb page.

Here are three weeks of daily news releases, compiled into this PDF document.

Detailed Notes

Originated Saturday, November 5, about 1:00 p.m., in Chimney Rock State Park.

Spread to several hundred acres, and then some thousands of acres, in Rutherford, Henderson, Buncombe counties. Ground fire only, no crown fires/tree tops burning.

Size of fire:

  • Nov 5-9 – 885 acres
  • Nov 10 – 1101
  • Nov 11 – 2616
  • Nov 12 – 3178
  • Nov 13 – 3744
  • Nov 14 – 4421
  • Nov 21 – 7171

One of several western North Carolina wildfires that occurred at the same time. However, this was the only one managed by the NC Forest Service (NCFS). The others were federally managed.

Fire first fought using local resources: NCFS, Lake Lure FD, Chimney Rock FD, Bill’s Creek FD, Fairfield Mountain FD. Additional local fire departments added in the early days.

As fire grew in size, additional NCFS resources were brought to the scene, along with wildland crews (and forestry resources) from other states, including Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, and Virginia.

Due to large number of structures in the area of the fire, additional structural protection assets were requested. The Office of State Fire Marshal contacted dozens of county Emergency Management departments, and requested engine companies and brush trucks.

During the weekend of November 11-12, for example, statewide requests were made for as many as 150+ engines and brush trucks, if available.

Mutual aid crews were deployed with multi-day deployments, from three to seven-days. Sleeping quarters were provided on site, or in the area.

Replacement crews arrived for the mutual aid units on/around November 18. Also on/around that date, some of the mutual aid units were put on 24-hour operation.

Additional support agencies include state and local EM agencies, law enforcement and EMS agencies, NC Baptist Men for canteen service, and others.

The incident command post, base of operations, and primary staging was located in Lake Lure, at the town hall and town park. Additional operational/staging locations are at other points, including other fire departments.

Sleeping quarters were also provided on site, including tents and mobile shelters, as well as local homes, buildings, and the Lake Lure FD.

Helicopter base was Henderson airport. Air tanker base was… same?

Residents and business owners were also evacuated from some areas, including the town of Chimney Rock and areas of Lake Lure. Evacuations started on 11/8, and then were expanded on 11/11. Re-entry began on 11/15 and 11/17, to some areas. All evacuations orders were lifted on 11/21.

Road closures were made on Highway 74 through Lake Lure and Chimney Rock, and Highway 9 north from Bat Cave.

Hand crews, bulldozers, helicopters, and air tankers were utilized. By 11/8, three heavy air tankers (1,500 gallons) were working the fire.

Mutual aid structural firefighters also provided support to wildland crews.

No structures were burned.

Some of the Party Rock firefighters, including the mutual aid crews, were loaned/detailed to other wildfires, notably one in McDowell County that started on November 19.

On Monday, November 21, demobilization orders were issued for many of the mutual aid firefighters. Also at noon on that day, evacuation orders were lifted for all areas.

By that date, over 170 fire departments from over 40 counties in North Carolina had participated.

The Party Rock Fire is believed to have generated the largest mutual aid response in recent decades, and perhaps in its history.

Photos by Mike Legeros

List of Fire Departments and More

By county, not including forestry departments:

Alamance  5         Durham  3         Orange  5
Anson  1   Forsyth  6   Pamlico  1
Beaufort  4   Gaston  1   Pitt  7
Bladen  5   Guilford  7   Polk  1
Brunswick  1   Henderson  13   Randolph  5
Buncombe  13   Hoke  1   Robeson  2
Cabarrus  3   Iredell  7   Rowan  3
Carteret  2   Lee  3   Rutherford  6
Cleveland  2   Lenoir  1   Stanly  3
Craven  1   Lincoln  1   Surry  1
Cumberland  6   Mecklenburg  4   Union  3
Currituck  3   Moore  8   Wake  18
Davidson  3   Nash  2   Wayne  1
Davie  2   New Hanover  3   Yadkin  4
Duplin  3   Onslow  5  
    Grand  179

By name:

  Name County Notes
1 Aberdeen Moore
2 Advance Davie Engine 1203
3 Albemarle Stanly E3 w/four
4 Allen Cabarrus E2, Brush 1, Squad 1 (passenger van)
5 Altamahaw-Ossippe Alamance
6 Apex Wake E22
7 A-RC-H (Arcadia-Reedy Creek-Hampton) Randolph Brush 1133
8 Asheboro Randolph E21
9 Asheville Buncombe E8, Tanker 12
10 Aurora Beaufort Brush 6550
11 Bahama Durham Brush 337 w/two, Squad 319 (pick-up) w/two
12 Barnardsville Buncombe Squad 15
13 Bat Cave Henderson
14 Battleboro Nash Brush w/four
15 Bay Leaf Wake Brush 259
16 Bear Creek/Swansboro Onslow E205
17 Big Marsh Robeson Brush 230
18 Bills Creek Rutherford
19 Black Mountain Buncombe E41
20 Bladenboro Bladen Quint
21 Bladen County FD Bladen
22 Blounts Creek Beaufort Brush 6150
23 Blue Ridge Henderson
24 Broad River Buncombe E22-2, B22
25 Bunyan Beaufort Brush 7350
26 Carolina Mecklenburg #2
27 Carrboro Orange E10
28 Carthage Moore Brush 317 w/four
29 Cary Wake E20, Brush 9
30 Cedar Grove Orange Brush 652
31 Central School Iredell E905
32 Chapel Hill Orange E36, Chief 3
33 Charlotte Mecklenburg Task Force with three engine-tankers (E71, E72, E73), four brush trucks (B5, B29, B31, B33), and a chief (BC23), plus communications assets, NC USAR Task Force 3, for logistics and shelter support
34 Chimney Rock Rutherford
35 Chocowinity Beaufort
36 Clark’s Neck Pitt Brush 2509. See Pitt County
37 Clarkton Bladen Brush 527
38 Climax Guilford B42
39 Concord Cabarrus E7 w/four
40 Courtney Yadkin
41 Cumberland Road Cumberland Brush 541
42 Currituck County FD Currituck Two engines w/eight to ten
43 Cypress Point Moore E243
44 Dana Henderson Engine
45 Deep River Lee
46 Denver Lincoln E14
47 Dudley Wayne Engine
48 Durham Durham Engine 15
49 Durham County FD Durham Brush 83, lettered as Parkwood
50 Durham Highway Wake Brush 6, w/two
51 Eagle Springs Moore
52 East Bend Yadkin Brush 1416
53 East Howellsville Robeson E711
54 East Side Stanly
55 Eastern Wake Wake P1 w/four or five, pick-up
56 Edneyville Henderson
57 Efland Orange Brush 151
58 Elizabethtown Bladen E554
59 E. M. Holt Alamance Brush 97 w/five
60 Etowah Horseshoe Henderson Command 16
61 Elon Alamance Brush 85 w/two
62 Enka Candler Buncombe
63 Fairfield Mountain Rutherford
64 Fairview Buncombe E3-2, E_, tanker, ATV3
65 Farmer Randolph
66 Farmville Pitt Brush 5309
67 Faucette Alamance Utility 77 w/two
68 Fire District 13 Guilford E58
69 Fletcher Henderson
70 Forbush Yadkin
71 Forest City Rutherford
72 Fountain Pitt See Pitt County
73 Franklinville Randolph Brush w/four
74 Fuquay-Varina Wake Personnel
75 Garner Wake Personnel
76 Garren Creek Buncombe E23, ATV 23
77 Gastonia Gaston E5
78 Gerton Henderson
79 Gray’s Creek Cumberland Engine w/four
80 Green Hill Rutherford
81 Green River Henderson
82 Greensboro Guilford E1, plus Special Ops/NCTF6 units assisting with logistics: mobile shower unit, tractor-drawn communications unit, etc.
83 Grimesland Pitt See Pitt County
84 GuilRand Guilford E211
85 Gumtree Forsyth Brush 335
86 Harmony Iredell Brush 448
87 Harrisburg Cabarrus Brush
88 Haw River Alamance Brush 45 w/one
89 Healing Springs Davidson
90 High Falls Moore Squad 12
91 High Point Guilford E1, Brush 1
92 Holly Springs Wake Brush 2, Car 4
93 Horneytown Forsyth Brush 329
94 Hubert Onslow Brush 809
95 Idlewild Mecklenburg Brush 6
96 Jacksonville Onslow E6
97 Jupiter Buncombe Tanker 16
98 Kannapolis Rowan E41 w/four
99 Kernersville Forsyth E45
100 Knightdale Wake Two personnel
101 Lake Lure Rutherford E2515
102 Leland Brunswick E5371
103 Lemon Springs Lee Brush 712
104 Lewisville Forsyth E113
105 Locke Rowan Brush 627
106 Lower Currituck Currituck E2, Brush 2
107 Matthews Mecklenburg Brush 126, Squad 129
108 Midway Davidson Brush 86, w/six total
109 Mills River Henderson
110 Monroe Union E1
111 Morehead City Carteret Brush 2 w/four
112 Mooresville Iredell E3, Brush 1
113 Morrisville Wake Brush 3
114 Mountain Home Henderson
115 Moyock Currituck
116 New Hanover County FD New Hanover E97
117 North Lenoir Lenoir E11 w/five
118 Norwood Center Stanly B566 w/four
119 Number 3 Cleveland Brush
120 Number 7 Township Craven Brush w/four
121 Orange Rural Orange E231, plus Asst. Chief and Deputy Chief
122 Pinecroft-Sedgefield Guilford E24, E25
123 Pinehill Surry
124 Pinehurst Moore See Aberdeen
125 Piney Green Onslow E1106
126 Pleasant Grove Duplin Brush w/three
127 Pumpkin Center Onslow
128 Puppy Creek Hoke Brush 39
129 Raleigh Wake Mini 2 (brush) w/eight, plus commercial bus and passenger van
130 Red Oak Pitt Squad 5110 (QRV), w/two
131 Reelsboro Pamlico Engine
132 Reems Creek-Beaverdam District Buncombe Tanker 17
133 Reems Creek Buncombe E14-2
134 Reynolds Buncombe E9-3, Brush 9
135 Rolesville Wake Personnel
136 Rocky Mount Nash E22
137 Salisbury Rowan E2 w/four
138 Saluda Henderson E23-2
139 Shelby Cleveland E32 w/four
140 Shepherds Iredell E3
141 Simpson Pitt E3207. See Pitt County
142 Skyland Buncombe E21-5, Car 21-1
143 South Iredell Iredell
144 Southern Pines Moore See Aberdeen
145 Southmont Davidson E56
146 Spring Lake Cumberland
147 Statesville Iredell
148 Stony Hill Wake P395
149 Stoney Point Cumberland E1333
150 Summerfield Guilford
151 Tabernacle Randolph Brush 187, Special Service 289, w/four total
152 Tramway Lee Brush 210
153 Troutman Iredell
154 Tryon Polk E3
155 Unionville Union
156 Valley Hill Henderson
157 Vienna Forsyth Brush 321
158 Wadesboro Anson Brush 618
159 Wake Forest Wake E1, Brush 3, personnel van
160 Wake-New Hope Wake Personnel
161 Wallace Duplin Personnel, one FF riding with Warsaw
162 Warsaw Duplin Engine w/three
163 Wendell Wake Brush 114
164 Westarea Cumberland
165 West Buncombe Buncombe Brush 5-2
166 Westarea Cumberland E2031
167 West End Moore Brush
168 Western Carteret Carteret E3, Brush 1, Utility 1
169 Western Wake Wake Brush 299
170 White Lake Bladen Engine
171 William R. Davie Davie E1703
172 Wilmington New Hanover E13, two brush trucks
173 Wingate Union
174 Winston-Salem Forsyth Special response unit S842 w/four
175 Winterville Pitt Brush 1509, w/three
176 Wrightsville Beach New Hanover E82
177 Yadkinville Yadkin
178 Valley Hill Henderson
179 Zebulon Wake Brush 99 w/two


  • Buncombe County FMO
  • Buncombe County FDs – Numerous chief officers
  • Lenoir County – About 11 personnel from several FDs and OFM
  • Moore County - Two engines w/eight people
  • Pamlico County strike team – Four engines
  • Pitt County – Six departments and thirteen FFs. Three brush trucks, plus QRV
  • Wake County - Fifty-seven FFs, deployed on Saturday, November 18


  • State forestry crews from NC, VA, and other locations.
  • US Forest Service units from NM, AZ, etc.

Plus wildland units and crews from outside North Carolina, such as:

  • Black Timber Wildland Services – Queen Creek, AZ
  • Daisy Mountain + Peoria + Surprise, AZ – Brush w/two
  • Chihuahua Fire Engines – Ruidoso, NM
  • Eagles Engines – Mescalero, NM
  • Golden Valley, AZ
  • Harquahala Fire District – Tonopah, AZ
  • L&A Wildfire – Sante Fe, NM
  • North County Fire & Medical – Sun City, AZ
  • Palominas Fire District – Hereford, AZ
  • Shiloh, NM
  • Summit FD – Flagstaff, AZ
  • Sundance (state?)
  • Superstition, AZ
  • Taos Pueblo, NM
  • Taylor-Snowflake Fire & Medical – Taylor, AZ
  • Three Points Fire District – Tucson, AZ
  • Timber Mesa, AZ
  • Wildfire Support Team – Santa Fe, NM

Plus numerous support agencies, such as:

  • Rutherford County EM
  • NC Emergency Management
  • NC HART – One helo
  • NC USAR Task Force 2 (Buncombe) – Various fire/rescue agencies.
  • NC USAR Task Force 3 (Mecklenburg) – Charlotte FD, see above
  • NC USAR Task Force 6 (Guilford) – Greensboro FD, see above
  • Various EM agencies from other counties around NC.

This list was previously located on this blog post.

Bits 'n' Pieces

From Orange Rural FD, about the hose they used and supplied:

Working with the Alaska and Oregon crews, we had over 2000 feet of supply line on the ground. Used 1.5" line as supply from drop tank. Gated wyes inline with 1" lateral lines along the way with forestry nozzles. The wildland crews carried 5/8" lines in their packs they called "toy hose" to extend the lateral hand lines if needed. Pumping off a three-stage Mark 3 pump and 500' elevation.


Resource snapshot on November 18 3:00 p.m.

  • Overheard/support – 130 people
  • Eighteen wildland crews – 234 people from FL, ID, CA, NC, MT, AK, NC State Parks, NC Wildlife, NCFS, VA State Parks
  • Six Type 3 dozers
  • One Type 4 dozer
  • One Type 4 engine
  • Five Type 6 engine – NCFS
  • One Type 6 engine – NCWRC
  • One Type 6 engine – NC State Parks
  • Thirty-nine Type 6 engines – Out of state
  • Two fuel tenders
  • People attached to equipment – 134
  • Plus fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters
  • Total 502 people not including EM and fire department(s)
  • Different states: AK, AZ, CA, CO, FL, ID, MT, NC, [missing], VA, WA
  • Agencies: NCFS, NC State Parks, NC Wildlife, [missing], ____ Commission, BIA, BLM, National Parks Service, [missing], and Native American Tribes


Excepts from Incident Action Plan on November 18:

Command sections and selected assets:

  • Planning
    • Resources
    • Situation
      • GIS
      • Field Observations
      • Fire Behavior
      • IMET
    • Demobilization
    • Documentation
  • Logistics
    • Supply
    • Ground Support
    • Facilities
    • Food
    • Medical
    • Communications
  • Finance
    • Procurement
    • Time
    • Cost
  • Operations (Wildland)
    • Branch I
      • Romeo, Sierra, Zulu
        • Strike team w/two wildland engines, w/four
        • Dozer w/two
      • Tango, Whiskey
        • Strike team w/four wildland engines, w/13
      • Uniform
        • Three hand crews w/16
        • Strike team w/four wildland engines, w/17
        • Two support personnel (line medics)
      • Victor
        • Three hand crews w/31
        • Two support personnel (line medics)
    • Branch II
      • Hotel, Indigo, Lima
        • Hand crew w/six
        • Engine w/two
      • Mike, Papa
        • Four hand crews w/79
        • Three dozers w/seven
        • Two support personnel (structural specialist, line medic)
        • Strike team with four wildland engines, w/14
        • Strike team with five wildland engines, w/17
      • Oscar
        • Hand crew w/13
      • Quebec
        • Two hand crews w/28
        • Task force w/three wildland engines, w/7
        • Strike team w/five wildland engines, w/14
  • Night Operations
    • Three hand crews w/60
    • Strike team w/four wildland engines, w/five
    • Strike team w/one wildland engine, w/one
    • Support personnel:
      • Five Division monitors
      • Two Safety Officers
      • Two Line Medics
  • Structural Protection
    • Chimney Rock
      • Strike Team 9, w/three brush, w/six
      • Five brush, w/nine
    • Fairfield
      • Task Force 1, w/two engines, two brush, two squads, w/22
      • Task Force 2, w/four engines, brush, w/20
      • Task Force 3, w/two engines, three brush, tanker, w/23
      • Task Force 4, w/three engine, four brush, w/20
      • Task Force 17, w/three engines, w/17
      • Task Force, w/three brush, w/7
      • Strike Team 5, w/four engine, one quint, five brush, w/32
      • Strike Team 8, w/five engine, w/26
      • Strike Team, w/five brush, w/10
      • Plus two engines, w/four
    • Schumont
      • Strike Team 10, w/four engines, w/16
      • Strike Team 11, w/three engines, w/11
      • Strike Team 12, w/five brush, w/10
      • Strike Team 13, w/five brush, w/12
      • Strike Team 14, w/five brush, w/10
      • Plus eight brush trucks, w/15
      • Plus four engines, w/18
    • Bat Cave
      • Strike Team 6, w/four brush, w/nine
      • Strike Team 7, w/four engines, four brush, w/25
      • Strike Team 9, w/four engines, w/16
  • Air Operations
    • Three helicopters
    • Tankers
    • Spotter plane
    • Water drops as requested 


On the overhead team for the Structural Protection branch were representatives from:

  • Cary FD
  • Greensboro FD
  • Gates County EM
  • Granville County EM
  • Hertford County EM
  • New Hanover County Sherriff's Office
  • New Hanover County EM
  • North Carolina EM
  • Wake County EMS
  • Wilson County EM


Thanks to a ton of people who assisted with information about this fire, and access and hospitality at the command post and incident sites. The public information officers were particularly helpful, during a visit on November 18-19.

Thank you also to the many fire service members who added and corrected data, during our social media conversations about the incident. This historical perspective was a true team effort!


Search Mike Legeros

Copyright 2023 by Michael J. Legeros