McCrory declares State of Emergency due to wildfires

More than two dozen wildfires are burning in western North Carolina as dry and windy conditions exacerbate the situation.

LAKE LURE, N.C. -- Governor Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency Thursday due to wildfires in Western North Carolina.

The declaration was made to help the state combat more than 20 active wildfires that were prompted by the lingering drought, the Governor's office said.

"As eastern North Carolina was underwater due to flooding from Hurricane Matthew, the western part of the state has been suffering from a severe drought and now hundreds of acres are burning," McCrory said.

"This declaration will help facilitate evacuations as needed and provide further state assets to help combat the wildfires and support North Carolinians displaced by the fires."

The State of Emergency is in effect for 25 counties including Alexander, Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Cherokee, Clay, Cleveland, Gaston, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Lincoln, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga and Yancey counties.

As part of the State of Emergency, the state's price gouging law went into effect for each county. Attorney General Roy Cooper encouraged consumers to report price gouging in the area. 

Crews from across the region are battling a massive wild ire in the Western part of North Carolina.

Officials say the blaze now covers over 400 acres and the smoke can be seen for miles.

"We're at 404 acres and increasing," said Victoria Tillotson with N.C. Forest Service. "It's moving, this wind today is our biggest adversary."

Agencies from across the state, including Charlotte, are contributing resources to help the crews to keep the fire contained. It's been burning since Saturday, and already, 38 homes have been forced to evacuate. 

Tillotson says 12 more homes could have to do the same soon.

"If the fire reaches a certain point, they'll be notified that they have two to four hours to evacuate," Tillotson said.

The cause of the fire is still unknown, and Tillotson says any reports of intentional fires being set are just rumors at this point.

Still, burn bans are in place for many surrounding counties as far southeast as Caldwell County. While they block the fire from spreading further, she says the only way to stop it completely will be for it to rain.

"We're in a severe drought, it couldn't be more dry, and that's really the most difficult thing about this fire," Tillotson said.

Scott and Kim Epley grew up in the Lake Lure area but live in Shelby in Cleveland County now. They said they had to see it in person to understand the danger this fire could cause to people living here now.

"I didn't think it would be bad at all until we actually saw it," Scott said. "It's a lot worse than I thought."

"Be safe, take everything you can," Kim said. "You can replace material things but you can't replace life."

Some of the crews also did what's called "back burning", where they burned some areas then put their man-made fire out before this blaze spread to them. It's a method to sort of stop the fire in its tracks. They say it's been successful in some areas to keep this thing contained.

Copyright 2016 WCNC


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