Southern wildfires have threatened communities on edge

“Wake County is actively doing its part to help our colleagues get these fires under control”.

As many as nine large wildfires had burned more than 42,000 acres of land in the western part of the state as of Wednesday evening.

Over 200 Tennessee residents needed medical assistance due to breathing difficulties after a wildfire had devastated the Southeast forests.

“We have not done any more evacuations”, he said.

It’s a constant reminder of the dozens of wildfires threatening small mountain communities in Rabun County, Georgia where people feel like they’re under siege.

David Greathouse, a fire behavior analyst with the N.C. Forest Service based in Morganton, said current conditions have produced fire behavior that is unusual for western North Carolina. The Party Rock fire in Chimney Rock State Park has devoured 3,457 acres and closed that park, too.

The severity of drought conditions worsen going from east to west in the North Carolina mountains, from “moderate drought” (least severe) in Wilkes and other nearby counties to “exceptional drought” (most severe) in the southwestern tip of the state. With temperatures expected to warm into the low 70s and relative humidity levels dropping below 30 percent, rapid fire growth could take place. The Rock Mountain blaze, about 10 miles north of Clayton in northeast Georgia, was 10 percent contained.

A ban campfires and smoking cigarettes has been issued in order to avoid a new fire.

“What really perturbs me is it’s really evident these fires were started, and what you have is an example of homegrown terrorism”, Smith said. “We’ve utilized helicopters, we’ve utilized single engine air tankers and we’ve utilized large tankers that were in the area (Thursday)”. She said flames could still spark in pockets inside the perimeters when leaves fall.

The disabled veteran said his children are staying in Hendersonville and that they’d come get him if he needs it. The governor declared a state of emergency in 25 western counties on Thursday after the fires resulted in evacuations in several counties.

Alford said the Wake County crews would likely switch out personnel and leave their equipment in the mountains for the next wave of firefighters to use.

The U.S. Forestry Service says the Georgia blaze has now burned through more than half of the Cohutta Wilderness area and has crossed over the Conasauga River.

That has happened only three other times: 1904, 1952 and 1961, Channel 2 meteorologist Karen Minton said.

“We can not let our guard down”, McCrory said.

“Continued drying and people burning irresponsibly could have an impact on the fires”, Klamut said. Meanwhile, an “Air Quality Warning” is in effect for western North Carolina where the smoke will be much worse.

Some school systems, like Greenville County in SC and Haywood County in North Carolina, have limited outdoor physical activity. Hall County limited outdoor activities to mornings only.

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