PILOT MOUNTAIN, N.C. — The Pilot Mountain community is coming together to help one another, including local first responders, as the Grindstone Fire continues to burn on Pilot Mountain.
Pilot Mountain Mayor Evan Cockerham said Pilot Mountain brings in one million visitors a year to the area, so it’s a big economic draw to the community. However, he says it goes beyond just money.
"It’s also a spiritual and emotional connection for people that live here,” Cockerham said. “It represents home to us. It's been a very emotional time. It's had a big impact on the area. We're just coming together as a community to support one another right now."
As of Tuesday evening, the fire was 20% contained so the work is far from over. Mayor Cockerham said he wants people to remember the local businesses and community once the fire is out.
“It’s going to be about making sure that people still know there’s a community here that needs your support,” said Cockerham. “We’ve got a beautiful downtown here in Pilot Mountain, lots of small businesses, so we want to make sure those businesses are supported as well.”
The Pilot Knob Volunteer Fire Department said they have been overwhelmed with donations so they ask the community to donate items and goods to other local groups, but monetary donations are still accepted.
"It's great to see how the community is coming out and rallying and supporting, knowing that Pilot Mountain will be back stronger than ever, it's just we'll have to work our way through that process,” said Harry Wilson, a member of the Friends of Sauratown Mountains.
The Friends of Sauratown Mountains is a local non-profit organization that supports both Hanging Rock State Park and Pilot Mountain State Park. They will be instrumental in the recovery of the mountain.
"Being a resident of the town, I’ve been here since 1980, it is devastating,” said Wilson. “It’s emotional (and) hard to see such an iconic member of the community and such an important part of the community burn like that.”
The group has also created a new specialty license plate to recognize the mountain as a national nature landmark. The group said 300 of the plates will generate $6000 per year for Pilot Mountain State Park. They need to get 70 more plates by the end of the year to reach their goal.
“That will be a huge way for us to help them year and year and on and on,” said Wilson.
Pilot Mountain has burned before and come back, giving hope to Wilson.
"The last fire that we had in here (in) the early teens burned upwards of 800 acres (…) so (this fire) will be a bigger thing, but it recovered well last time and we’ll recover this time as well,” Wilson said.