Wildfires in North Carolina prompt state of emergency as drought continues

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North Carolina joins a growing list of states grappling with the escalating wildfire. A burn ban is currently in effect for 30 counties, and firefighters from across the region are mobilizing to combat three significant blazes in the western part of the state.

Also contributing to the wildfire crisis is the ongoing drought.

“[The] drought is statewide but more severe in the western part of the state,” said Philip Jackson with the North Carolina Forest Service.

Governor Roy Cooper on Wednesday declared a state of emergency due to the ongoing drought and wildfires.

The North Carolina Forest Service blames careless debris burning for the state’s current wildfire crisis.

Fire departments within our viewing area are actively engaged in the firefighting efforts. Crews from Hillsborough are currently on the ground, while firefighters from Rocky Mount are set to deploy on Thursday.

As wildfires continue to burn in western counties, including Hendersonville, firefighters are battling the fire from the air and on the ground.

Jackson said some progress has been made.

“We’ve been successful in holding the fire in 431 acres footprint over last few days,” Jackson said.

While significant progress has been made, there’s still a long way to go in containing the wildfires. Local fire departments are stepping in to provide much-needed support to the ongoing efforts.

The fire chief from Orange Rural Fire Department told WRAL that four firefighters and two trucks have been on the ground since Monday, battling the wildfires raging in western North Carolina.

In addition, the Rocky Mount Fire Department plans to send four firefighters and a truck on Thursday to join the firefighting efforts.

“It’s difficult to get water in the area,” Jackson said. “It’s hard to get vehicles in the area.”

North Carolina officials are urging all residents, even those in areas not directly affected by the burn ban, to exercise extreme caution when engaging in any outdoor burning activities.

“It doesn’t take much for the smallest ignition to spread into a large-scale, intense wildfire,” Jackson said.

State officials said they will continue assessing weather conditions to see if the ban needs to be extended.

The State Department of Environmental Quality said Cherokee, Clay and Macon counties may experience Code Red air quality conditions, meaning all residents should try to limit their time outdoors.

Graham and Henderson counties and the southern mountain ridgetops in this area are forecast to have Code Orange air quality conditions, which is unhealthy to groups who are sensitive to air pollution. Children, older adults and people with asthma should limit their time outdoors during Code Orange conditions.