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article imageForest fires in Appalachia prompt mass evacuations

By Karen Graham     Nov 13, 2016 in Environment
Durham - North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory had already declared a state of emergency covering 25 drought-ridden western counties with over 20 wildfires, but by Saturday evening, the situation went from bad to worse.
The long-standing drought and erratic winds have created a potent and extremely dry fuel level in western North Carolina, causing state and local officials to revise planned mandatory evacuations for portions of Chimney Rock and the Lake Lure communities.
The North Carolina Forest Service issued an immediate voluntary evacuation Saturday night as the large Party Rock Fire in Buncombe County continued to grow, forcing the evacuation of an entire community.
The Party Rock Fire has scorched over 2,000 acres and is making a beeline toward the community of Lake Lure, a community of about 1,200 people. Brian Haines, a spokesman for the North Carolina Forest Service told KTVQ.com, "It's headed toward town. They are hoping to stop it before it gets there." He added, "The only people there now, I think, are the firefighters."
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NC Forest Service
The Party Rock fire, which started last Saturday, is just one of over 20 fires burning in North Carolina. The blaze has forced the evacuation of 200 homes in the Nantahala National Forest. There are other wildfires burning in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia.
In North Carolina, a number of state forests have been closed so that employees can be shifted to help fight the fires. There are over 5,000 firefighters and support staff from around the country working to suppress the fires, as well as 40 aircraft, including three large air tankers flying out of Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Humidity that usually rises during the night, helping to dampen the fires, has been relatively low, allowing the blazes to burn unfettered and move quickly. Haines said, "It is just due to the drought, honestly. The wind is coming in and picking up the fire and running with it at night."
More about Wildfires, Drought, North carolina, Appalachia, winddriven