Wildfire

wildfire photo
Stuart Palley for Reveal

Wildfires continue to sweep through the Southeastern United States. More than 28,000 fires have burned approximately 1.5 million acres of land in the region so far this year, according to The National Interagency Fire Center.

Kayla Cantrell / North Carolina Forest Service

Forecasters say another round of rain will help to subdue the wildfires in western North Carolina, but they are also keeping an eye on possible mudslide conditions.

Near the Tennessee border, firefighters monitor a burnout operation along the Cheoah River
North Carolina Forest Service

North Carolina's wildfires have now burned 50,000 acres of forest land. More than 2,000 firefighters have been battling 15 fires for three weeks in the western part of the state. 

Near the Tennessee border, firefighters monitor a burnout operation along the Cheoah River
North Carolina Forest Service

Authorities have ordered more evacuations near Lake Lure as a nearby wildfire continues to spread. 

The state Forest Service says more than 1,000 people have now been asked to leave their homes.  The fire is one of more than a dozen that have burned 47,000 acres in western North Carolina. 

A heavy air tanker drops fire retardant over the Boteler Fire in western North Carolina
Courtesy of North Carolina Forest Service

The state Department of Environmental Quality has again issued warnings of dangerous air quality in western North Carolina as a result of more than a dozen wildfires in the region. Four counties in the west were under a "code purple" air quality alert on Tuesday, the highest warning the state can give.

Gov. Pat McCrory first visited the fire near Lake Lure on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016
North Carolina Forest Service

Firefighters are entering a third week of battling more than a dozen wildfires in western North Carolina. 

The fires have been fueled by weeks of mostly sunny and dry conditions. 

Ryan Lubbers / North Carolina Forest Service

More than 5,000 firefighters have been dispatched to battle wildfires in the Southeast, including more than a dozen blazes burning in western North Carolina.  

A Nature Conservancy crew member sets a backfire at Nags Head Woods Preserve.
Aaron McCall/The Nature Conservancy

The fire began Tuesday night and has since burned 200 acres--about a fifth of the preserve. Several vacation homes are in the path of the flames.

Crews with the state forest service and the Nature Conservancy are trying to contain the flames by digging fire lines, and by burning portions of land in the fire's path to reduce fuel.

Nature Conservancy spokeswoman Debbie Crane said Thursday, gusty conditions aren't helping crews' efforts.

Firefighters from around the world meet Monday in Raleigh to discuss how to improve the way they battle wildfires.  The International Association of Wildland Fire hosts a conference this week that focuses on better communication and learning the behavior of wildfires as a few ways to contain them.  Organization spokeswoman Paula Nelson says those techniques can vary in North Carolina, where the landscape can shift rapidly from dense forest to peat bog.

"Each of those takes specific skills, so the local people are the ones you really turn to," Nelson says.

Firefighters took a step forward this week in controlling North Carolina's wildfires. Forestry officials say the blaze in Dare County was fully contained Monday night. But Division of Forest Resources spokesman Chris Carlson says firefighters still face the daunting task of putting it out.

Chris Carlson: "There are some areas within the interior that are just too far to get water to, so they may continue to smolder for a while. The peat soil is deep, so the only thing that we can do is monitor it and wait for Mother Nature itself to put it out with lots of rain."

North Carolina National Guard troops are helping battle the huge wildfires in Arizona. About three dozen guard members are flying airborne tankers dropping chemical fire retardant on the blazes. Lieutenant Colonel Rose Dunlap is with the 145th Airlift Wing based in Charlotte. She says logistics for fighting such large fires are complex.

Dare County Commissioners are holding a series of public meetings next week to address long-term implications of the wildfire there. The blaze started more than six weeks ago when lightning struck in an area of peat soil near Stumpy Point. Firefighters say it could smolder for months and light new fires. Some commissioners worry that could keep visitors from coming to the Outer Banks this summer. Warren Judge is the chair of the Dare County Board of Commissioners. He says smoke conditions vary day by day based on wind direction.

Local business owners in northeastern North Carolina say the Dare County wildfire hasn't stopped tourists from coming to the beach. The blaze started more than three weeks ago and covers nearly 28,000 acres in and around the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Forecasters say Dare County is still under heavy smoke and fog advisories for some areas. But Paul Charron says it was business as usual this weekend at his restaurant in Manteo. 

Firefighters continue to fight a large blaze burning in northeastern North Carolina. Officials reported progress Monday in protecting homes and business from the fire. It started last Thursday in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Spokesman Bill Sweet says favorable weather conditions allowed firefighters to burn land in the path of the fire to keep it from spreading further.

A wildfire in Cumberland County has destroyed about 1,000 acres of woods since Monday afternoon. The blaze continues to burn about five miles south of the Cedar Creek community in Fayetteville. State officials say firefighters are successfully controlling the fire. But Brian Haines of the North Carolina Forest Service says it's too early to tell exactly when crews will have the fire fully contained.

The Division of Forest Resources is working to put out with a number of fires across the state. Windy, dry conditions have contributed to 211 fires over the past several days. Forest Resources spokesman Brian Haines says crews have had trouble containing the 582-acre Lumber Plant Fire in Surry County in western North Carolina.