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Environment

'All You See Is Smoke:' Wildfires Spread Over Western North Carolina

PartyRockFire.jpeg
Ryan Lubbers
/
North Carolina Forest Service
A helicopter circles the Party Rock Fire near Lake Lure

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.  

High winds, warm temperatures and dry weather have fueled the fires for more than a week.  Two counties in the western part of the state are in exceptional drought conditions for the first time since 2008.  

The fires have now burned tens of thousands of acres in Nantahala National Forest and surrounding areas.

"We normally see - on a clear day - the mountain ridges.  All you see is smoke," said longtime Franklin, N.C. resident Sue Carrion.

"It was very heavy this morning.  I have family members who had to leave their houses because they smell smoke in the house or outside it's so heavy that they're afraid to let the kids outside," she said.

Another wildfire burning near Lake Lure jumped containment lines on Friday.  Authorities have ordered more evacuations in the resort town and nearby Chimney Rock.  The Party Rock Fire has burned about 1,000 acres.

Two shelters have been opened in Lake Lure and Rutherfordton.  25 counties are under a state of emergency.

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